August 21, 2004
The Clown Show That Is National Review

A correspondent tells me that if I need a good laugh I should look at the clown show that is National Review for Stephen Moore. I do so, and find Moore trying to explain some numbers produced by the Congressional Budget Office: Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen on the Bush Tax Cuts & the CBO on NRO Financial: ...the CBO report did conclude was that the total tax share by the richest 1 percent declined modestly from 2001 to 2004. But that wasn’t because of the tax cut. It was because of the recession. When the economy contracts and incomes fall as they did in 2001 and 2002, tax payments by the wealthy fall the fastest. This is because of the progressive rate structure of the income tax... But if either Stephen Moore or Phil Kerpen had read even to the end of the first paragraph of the CBO report they are "explaining," they would have recognized that the recession had nothing to do with it: the CBO took the tax laws that are currently planned to be in force for each year from 2002 through 2014, and analyzed what those tax laws would collect if applied to the taxpayer...

Posted by DeLong at 09:16 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Has Susan Stranahan Taken a Dive Department)

Susan Q. Stranahan of CJR Campaign Desk appears to want reporters to misrepresent the Swift Boat Veterans: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: ...John Kerry's decision to come out swinging against attacks on his war record dominates campaign coverage today -- and in their rush to report the juicy controversy, many in the press glossed over a critical fact about the Bush campaign's relationship to an independent groups running the ads.... The Times and the Post,along with the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and USA Today all duly reported Kerry's charge linking the group to the Bush White House. That's John Kerry's take on the Swift Boat Veterans, and the campaign press should be careful that they report it as such.... [T]he media also is obligated to note that... Swift Boat Veterans is an organization independent of the Bush campaign and Republican National Committee. It may be funded and advised by several people with ties to the Republican Party... but it is officially unaffiliated with candidate or party.... "Officially" unaffiliated. But is that reality? Every time a Bush runs--against John Anderson in Connecticut in 1980, against Mike Dukakis in 1988, against Clinton, against John McCain in 2000--this kind of thing happens. It...

Posted by DeLong at 12:03 AM

August 20, 2004
Valid Insights?

A Question: Kieran Healy writes: ...the horrors of Stalin don’t invalidate the fundamental insights of Marxists... which reminds me of a question I have long wanted to ask: Just what are the fundamental (valid) insights of Marxism? I ask as someone who is. I think, closer to "Marxism" than almost everybody else on the Berkeley campus. That is, I believe that in the process of going about the business of making, using, and consuming the things people need and want to continue their daily lives, humans enter into social and economic arrangements of production, association, exploitation, and exchange that form patterns and have consequences that none of them have willed, and that these arrangements of production, association, exploitation, and exchange--these "modes of production, as it were"--form the base, the soil in which the rest of society is rooted and out of which it grows. That is what Marx believed, and if I'm not the closest one to that position on the Berkeley campus today, people who are closer are very scarce on the ground. But what valid analytical insights does Marxism draw and develop from this starting point? The "dictatorship of the proletariat" stuff is the worst political idea in...

Posted by DeLong at 06:55 AM

August 19, 2004
The New York Times Blows the Lead Once Again

Once again the New York Times pulls its punches and blows the lead: The New York Times > Washington > Campaign 2004 > Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad: by KATE ZERNIKE and JIM RUTENBERG: After weeks of taking fire over veterans' accusations that he had lied about his Vietnam service record to win medals and build a political career, Senator John Kerry shot back yesterday, calling those statements categorically false and branding the people behind them tools of the Bush campaign. His decision to take on the group directly was a measure of how the group that calls itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has advanced its cause in a book, in a television advertisement and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit Mr. Kerry's war record, a pillar of his campaign. The Swift Boat smear campaign needs its context--a quote from John McCain calling it a smear campaign would have been nice. And the important thing for readers to know is not that Kerry "claims" that they are tools of the Bush campaign, and not that they have "catapulted......

Posted by DeLong at 09:48 PM

Enabling the Republican Slime Machine

Kevin Drum says that Virginia Postrel is enabling the Republican Slime Machine: The Washington Monthly: I have to admit that this sounds like a more subtle critique than the usual media bashing from the right ("They don't want us to know the truth!"), but it amounts to the same thing: Virginia is insisting that the media should figure out some way to report a smear story even though they know it's a smear story and there's no actual evidence to back it up. Damned if I know why anyone who wants to maintain even the pretense of being a libertarian is not using all their strength to leverage George W. Bush out of the White House. To even pretend to be "even-handed" is to demonstrate that your commitment to liberty is of a summer soldier and a sunshine patriot kind. The presence in office of George W. Bush and his henchmen is a horror, as Michael Froomkin reminds us this morning: Discourse.net: 'Free Country' Datum III--"Material Witness" Detentions: The New York Times reports on the saga of Abdullah al Kidd. 1. Abdullah al Kidd is a US citizen; 2. Mr. Kidd was at no point charged with doing anything wrong,...

Posted by DeLong at 12:07 PM

Why Not Talk About the Elephant in the Living Room? (Bush Administration Incompetence Department)

Another very strange column from the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray. He talks about two big objections to George W. Bush's "ownership society"--the fact that it is almost surely nothing but cover for another round of right-wing class warfare, and the fact that Bush has been "happy to give away candy but [has] little stomach for administering the medicine." But he leaves out the third reason--the big reason, the Elephant-in-the-Living-Room reason--to run screaming into the night at the thought of a big Bush initiative. Even if it were well-intentioned (and not just cover for another round of right-wing class warfare), even if Bush were willing to make difficult choices (which he has never shown any ability to do), the Bush administration is still incompetent, and its attempts to make policy have almost invariably been horrible botches. As Daniel Davies wrote a year and a half ago: Can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics: It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it). It wasn't in some important way completely f*****...

Posted by DeLong at 08:37 AM

August 18, 2004
It's Official: The Bottom of the Barrel Has Been Scraped

Searching for a way to put pressure on Alan Greenspan not to raise interest rates before the election, the Wall Street Journal editorial page finds one Melvyn Kraus of the Hoover Institution, author of How NATO Weakens the West. Kraus attacks Greenspan for: WSJ.com - Irrationally Active: rais[ing] interest rates last week and signal[ing] more hikes are on the way in the midst of an unquestioned economic slowdown, and ahead of sensitive national elections... What is the source of Greenspan's problems, according to Kraus? It is that Greenspan pays attention to economic conditions and forecasts when he makes monetary policy: [W]hat's making U.S. monetary policy so unstable in the past year -- waiting too long to get started with interest rate hikes and now being relentless on the ascent -- is that the Federal Reserve keeps changing its mind which "bad" it needs to correct. First it was recession. Then it became deflation. Now it's inflation.... And this too can change if, for example, the Fed was to become convinced that the present economic slowdown is more than temporary. It is not inconceivable that within a few months the Fed's most recent statement that "the economy nevertheless appears poised to...

Posted by DeLong at 05:40 AM

August 16, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Bridget Jones Is *British* Department)

Liz Cox Barrett bangs her head against the wall as she contemplates the "reporting" of Fox News's Catherine Donaldson-Evans: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: On Saturday, Fox News's Catherine Donaldson-Evans retread this too-trodden territory, summoning yet another well-known, plucky single gal. "... [T]he Bridget Joneses among America's voters might prove as important as a swing state in the upcoming presidential election," Donaldson-Evans reported. Reminding readers that Bridget Jones "is, of course, fictitious," Donaldson-Evans asserted that the unlucky-in-love book/film protagonist nonetheless "has come to represent singles everywhere." And "with 80 million of them living in this country and recent findings that they're less likely to vote than 'Smug Marrieds,'" Donaldson-Evans counseled the candidates that they "would be wise to go after the unwed to help win the White House."... Contrary to the story's headline, "Campaigns Consider Singles in 2004 Race," the candidates don't seem to be particularly focused on "Bridget Jones" voters. "Neither the Bush-Cheney nor the Kerry-Edwards campaigns are specifically trying to appeal to singles," Donaldson-Evans reported in paragraph eight. The fact that Bridget Jones lives in Greater London, and is not a citizen of the United States but a subject of the Queen of England *might* be a reason that...

Posted by DeLong at 02:14 PM

August 14, 2004
Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Whatever-They-Ares? (George Bush Rewrites History Edition)

Dan Froomkin is bemused at how George W. Bush rewrites history. Does he really think now that he didn't oppose the 9/11 Commission? Does he think that our press corps is so lousy that he can say whatever comes into his head and nobody will call him on it? Bush Goes Off Message (washingtonpost.com): Didn't Oppose the 9/11 Commission? "KING: You first were opposed to the 9/11 Commission and then changed. Why? "G. BUSH: Not really. "KING: You weren't opposed? "G. BUSH: Well, I just wanted to make sure that it was done the right way. I felt like that -- one of my concerns was that it would usurp the Congress' need to fully investigate." But Bush's aides at the time made it very clear that he didn't support the establishment of a commission, and Bush himself had this to say in May, 2002: "I, of course, want the Congress to take a look at what took place prior to September the 11th. But since it deals with such sensitive information, in my judgment, it's best for the ongoing war against terror that the investigation be done in the intelligence committee. There are committees set up with both Republicans...

Posted by DeLong at 11:07 AM

August 13, 2004
Nobody Writes About the Elephant in the Living Room

All cover the story that Douglas Holtz-Eakin's CBO says that yes, the Bush "tax cuts" were tilted toward the rich. But nobody talks about the elephant in the living room--that the deficits produced by these tax cuts are raising the national debt, that the national debt has to be serviced (unless we want to see the economy collapse into hyperinflation), and that the burden of servicing the national debt will raise taxes in the future. What we are talking about is not a tax cut, but a tax shift--a shift in taxes from today's upper class to tomorrow's middle class. Why not talk about the elephant in the living room? It would give readers a better picture of what is going on. (Ed Andrews comes close, noting that Kerry has said that "the cuts were tilted so much in favor of the wealthy that they provided relatively little stimulus to the economy and set the stage for record budget deficits.") Jackie Calmes in the Wall Street Journal: WSJ.com - Budget Office Says Biggest Tax Cuts Go to Richest 1%: WASHINGTON -- President Bush's three tax-cut laws will reduce this year's income taxes for the richest 1% of taxpayers by an...

Posted by DeLong at 09:18 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Why Does David Sanger Still have a Job? Edition)

Bob Somerby writes: Brit admits that Bush is 'stretching.' But at the great Times, he's just "shrewd": SPINNING NUANCE: John Kerry? He’s much too “nuanced.” It’s a standard RNC talking-point—and there it is, nicely placed in a headline in today’s New York Times: NEW YORK TIMES HEADLINE For Now, Bush's Mocking Drowns Out Kerry's Nuanced Explanation of His War Vote No, it doesn’t get better than that—to get your spin-point right in a headline. But how dumb is your press corps willing to be? The new flap over Kerry’s stance on Iraq provides a brilliant example. What is Kerry’s stand on Iraq? Readers, get ready for some real brain-work! Here goes: Kerry says Bush should have had the authority to go to war, but then went to war prematurely. Wow! Have you finished scratching your heads about all the nuance involved in that statement? It’s hard to believe that any grown person could pretend that this is complex or confusing. But that’s the official RNC line—Kerry is simply filled with nuance—and obliging scribes are typing it up, pretending this claim makes good sense. One of those puzzled scribes is Sanger, who scratches his head in today’s piece about Kerry’s “nuanced...

Posted by DeLong at 08:06 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

Matthew Yglesias bangs his head against the wall as he contemplates the lack of professionalism shown by the Post's Executive and former Assistant Managing Editor: TAPPED: August 2004 Archives: HARD DETERMINISM AT THE POST. The Washington Post joins the list of media organizations taking a look back at their prewar coverage and concludes, as have the others, that they overplayed stories backing the administration line and underplayed more skeptical accounts. Then Karen DeYoung, a reporter and former Assistant Managing Editor, says something very odd: Bush, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials had no problem commanding prime real estate in the paper, even when their warnings were repetitive. "We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power," DeYoung said. "If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said." And if contrary arguments are put "in the eighth paragraph, where they're not on the front page, a lot of people don't read that far." That's a pretty accurate characterization of what goes on, but there's nothing "inevitabl[e]" about it -- the paper could do things differently. Indeed, since they've concluded that this is the procedure that led them to create a misleading public impression...

Posted by DeLong at 08:02 PM

August 12, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

It appears that some people at the Washington Post are beginning to think about admitting that it did not do its job. Former Assistant Managing Editor Karen DeYoung: "We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.... If the president stands up and says something, we report what the president said.... [Contrary arguments are put] in the eighth paragraph, where they're not on the front page, a lot of people don't read that far": washingtonpost.com: The Post on WMDs: An Inside Story: "The paper was not front-paging stuff," said Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks. "Administration assertions were on the front page. Things that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on Monday. There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?"... Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "we were so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That was a mistake on...

Posted by DeLong at 06:21 AM

August 11, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Mickey Kaus Edition)

*Sigh*. Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens: Mickey Kaus: This John Crudele column from Thursday's N.Y. Post is now looking mighty prescient. It also offers a relatively benign, statistical explanation for the weak July job growth numbers released today... The Crudele "explanation": New York Post Online Edition: seven: ...the Labor Department's so-called Net Birth/Death Adjustment tabulates July as one of only two months in which there are more companies dying and taking jobs away than creating new jobs. The other month is January, when Labor takes out a massive number of jobs because it assumes a large number of companies die off after Christmas. I assume the White House doesn't understand these assumptions because the small jobs gain in January — helped by these assumptions — set off a massive amount of administration bellyaching. Now let's look at what the Bureau of Labor Statistics says about its numbers: Employment Situation Summary : Table A. Major indicators of labor market activity, seasonally adjusted (Numbers in thousands) As an exercise for the reader, explain that one would not expect a predictable and regular seasonal pattern in the adjustments the BLS makes to the raw payroll data (to account for not-yet-known changes...

Posted by DeLong at 12:44 PM

August 10, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (William Saletan Edition)

Kevin Drum asks if William Saletan has any hint of ironic awareness, and concludes that he does not: The Washington Monthly: SALETANISMS....Will Saletan complains today about John Kerry's stand on stem cell research: Why does Kerry call it a "ban on stem-cell research" instead of a ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell lines derived after Aug. 9, 2001? Because the shorter phrase, while scientifically inaccurate in four egregious ways, is more politically effective. This is pretty rich coming from a guy who spent two full months of his life bemoaning the fact that Kerry spends too much time explaining himself in detail. Sheesh....

Posted by DeLong at 09:35 PM

Quality of Jobs

Greg Mankiw (or someone good enough to spoof an originating address from inside the Executive Office of the President's class-C network: 198.137.240.x) emails: "Since I know you aim for honest, unbiased commentary on your blog, I know you will be interested in this new study from factcheck.org": Kerry's Dubious Economics : He says new jobs are paying $9,000 less than the old ones. That's not a fact. In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention July 29 Kerry repeated a claim that the economy is creating jobs that pay $9,000 a year less than those they replace. He bases that on disputed analysis from a liberal think tank. In fact, economists disagree.... Even some Democratic economists say the economic numbers are simply too rough and contradictory.... And when Kerry said the "middle class is shrinking," he was referring to what happened in the recession of 2001 and the initially slow recovery of 2002. But the economy has picked up considerably in the 19 months since, so what was true then may be untrue when phrased in present tense.... Kerry bases his claim on an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by the Economic Policy Institute. But the EPI figures don't support what Kerry said, because they...

Posted by DeLong at 01:45 PM

Totally Weird

Stephen W. Stromberg of Salon writes: The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Secretary of State Colin Powell won't be speaking at -- or perhaps even attending -- this year's Republican National Convention in New York. The article cited a "tradition" that Cabinet officials refrain from speaking at national conventions: "But in keeping with tradition, Cabinet officials do not speak at the conventions -- or other campaign events. So Powell will not appear. "'As secretary of state, I am obliged not to participate in any way, shape, fashion, or form in parochial, political debates. I have to take no sides in the matter,' Powell told the Unity: Journalists of Color Convention on Thursday. Powell was a featured speaker at the 2000 convention and even campaigned with Bush." Funny, because sitting Secretary of Education Rod Paige will address the Republican National Convention on August 31, the second night of the 2004 convention. And if you hark back to the days when the Republicans had sitting Cabinet members to speak at their national nominating conventions, the "tradition" seems even less, well, traditional. Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole addressed the 1988 Republican National Convention, and in 1984, Dole, Secretary of Health and Human...

Posted by DeLong at 12:29 PM

August 07, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Irwin Stelzer/Weekly Standard Edition)

I commit the mistake of following a link from Daniel Drezner* and wind up at the Weekly Standard, reading Irwin Stelzer, who writes: The Weekly Standard: Wal-Mart, which accounts for about 8 percent of all non-auto retail sales in the United States, reports that net sales for the four-week period ending July 30 increased by 10.9 percent over the same four weeks in 2003. Even Target, which has been struggling, reported an 8.8 percent increase in July sales over last year's levels. These figures bode well for the important back-to-school sales of clothes, computers, and bedding... When everyone else besides Stelzer uses Wal-Mart as a barometer of consumer spending, they use Wal-Mart's reports of same-store sales: what's the change in sales for those stores that are open now and were open a year ago? The Wal-Mart same-store sales number is not a 10.9% increase over last year, but a 3.2% increase. Lop off a couple of percentage points for inflation, and you realize that Wal-Mart's shoppers are only spending 1% more in real terms this year than last year. That's not a good number at all. That's an awful number. That doesn't "bode well" for back to school sales. Stelzer...

Posted by DeLong at 09:44 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (There's Context Here, People! Edition)

Yesterday, Dan Froomkin said: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: I'd like to see a lot less stenography and lot more research. There's context here, people.... Don't just do he said/she said... Today I look at the New York Times business section, and find: The New York Times: The Data: A Job Picture Painted With Different Brushes: July was a poor month for job creation in the United States. July was an excellent month for job creation in the United States. That tale of two employment reports is true, and it continues a trend that has persisted for two and a half years. The discrepancies have made it possible for Republicans to herald a job recovery and for Democrats to deny one exists. Both sets of statistics were issued by the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they come from very different surveys. One, the establishment survey, which questions 160,000 employers, paints the bleak picture. The other, the household survey, which questions 60,000 people about whether they or other family members are working, paints the better picture. Which is right? Because of its smaller sample size, the household survey is always more volatile, and month-to-month changes can be deceptive for that reason....

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 AM

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? (Tribal Sovereignty Edition)

Bob of Unfogged writes: Unfogged: Clueless Posted by Bob on 08.06.04. At the UNITY: Journalists of Color Convention: Q Good morning. My name is Mark Trahant. I'm the editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a member of the Native American Journalist Association. (Applause.) Most school kids learn about the government in the context of city, county, state and federal. And, of course, tribal governments are not part of that at all. Mr. President, you've been a governor and a President, so you have a unique experience, looking at it from two directions. What do you think tribal sovereignty means in the 21st century, and how do we resolve conflicts between tribes and the federal and the state governments? THE PRESIDENT: Tribal sovereignty means that, it's sovereign. You're a -- you've been given sovereignty, and you're viewed as a sovereign entity. And, therefore, the relationship between the federal government and tribes is one between sovereign entities. Now, the federal government has got a responsibility on matters like education and security to help, and health care. And it's a solemn duty. And from this perspective, we must continue to uphold that duty. I think that one of the most promising...

Posted by DeLong at 08:39 AM

August 06, 2004
Dan Froomkin Gives Advice

Dan Froomkin says I would have a *much* better opinion of the White House press corps if I confined myself to reading his column and the articles he recommends: Zachary Roth asks Dan Froomkin a question: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: Zachary Roth: How would you assess the job the press has done covering the campaign so far, and covering the White House under Bush? What would you like to see more, or less, of? Dan Froomkin: I think the Washington Post White House correspondents are terrific. Generally speaking, though, I'd like to see a lot less stenography and lot more research. There's context here, people. In the blogosphere, you hear it over and over again: Don't just do he said/she said. I agree completely. But I also want to share a fascinating discovery that I've made: If you read a lot of White House coverage daily, which is what I do, you always find some reportage somewhere that's insightful, that's perceptive, that's penetrating, that's eagle-eyed. My column includes the best of the day's coverage, and that, day in and day out, is not at all bad....

Posted by DeLong at 08:21 PM

August 05, 2004
Making a Better Press Corps, One Article at a Time

Liz Cox Barrett of CJR Campaign Desk praises David Wessel: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: ...we tip our hat to David Wessel of the Wall Street Journal. Wessel's "Capital" column is... the sort of piece Campaign Desk would like to see more of... much more of. Wessel takes the following vague (and grammatically challenged) Bush campaign sound bite... and dissects it.... Said Bush of Kerry in Canton, Ohio yesterday: "He said he's only going to raise the tax on the so-called rich. But you know how the rich is [sic]: They've got accountants. That means you pay. That means your small business pays. It means the farmers and ranchers pay."... Wessel explains each candidate's stance on "how heavily to tax Americans with incomes over $200,000 per year".... He confirms that Kerry wants to "raise the tax"... he reports by precisely how much and what Kerry says he will do with that money. Does Kerry's plan mean, as Bush claims, that "small business pays"[?]... The "bulk"... won't pay more under Kerry's plan. Readers then hear from an Urban Institute economist (and "Reagan tax official") who says that by cutting taxes now, but not cutting spending, "Mr. Bush is guaranteeing tax increases in...

Posted by DeLong at 02:05 PM

August 04, 2004
Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Liars? (Special Josh Bolten/New York Times as Enabler Edition)

I've gotten a note saying that I was unfair to New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum. Perhaps, but on looking back at Rosenbaum's coverage of the midsession budget review, I think not. Let's begin our story on July 13, 2004, when non-partisan budget expert Stan Collender writes about the midsession budget review on nationaljournal.com: Budget Battles (07/13/2004): At some point over the next few weeks, the Office of Management and Budget will release the administration's midsession budget review and try to convince everyone the federal deficit is falling. Don't believe them. OMB is likely to say its latest projection shows the fiscal 2004 deficit will be around $420 billion, about $100 billion less than the $521 billion the administration forecast when it released its budget in February. Administration officials will say this is an indication of how much better the budget outlook has gotten over the past few months and that the president's policies are working.... The administration... won't say that the "improvement" is due to what now must be taken as a consistent pattern of questionable projections and forecasts. Last year's midsession review projected a fiscal 2003 deficit of $455 billion. A mere 10 weeks later, when the...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 AM

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Liars? (George Shultz Needs a Better Staff Edition)

Matthew Yglesias reads the op-ed published under the name "George Schultz" in the New York Times this morning and is an unhappy camper: matthew: Gee...: ...it strikes me as a bit misleading to construct a chart plotting change in GDP versus time and then discuss it as thought it were a chart of GDP versus time. The way Shultz has done it, the second Clinton administration looks like a period of plateau, albeit at a decent level, whereas mapping the second set of data points would reveal that it was, in fact, an era of rapid improvement in living standards. One could go on... Matthew identifies the trick of pretending that a graph of changes is a graph of levels: the graph of detrended levels is too favorable to Clinton, and by graphing changes you can pretend that a slowing of the rate of increase is a decline. But there are two other big problems here--problems that George Shultz's staff should have caught: First, Shultz's graphs show GDP rising throughout the first half of 2001--the first GDP decline in the third quarter of 2001. The first employment declines come in the third and fourth quarters of 2001 depending on the...

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 AM

July 31, 2004
A Multiple-Choice Question (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

When Joshua Bolten, George W. Bush's budget director, tells New York Times reporter David Rosenbaum that: The New York Times: "the improved budget outlook [from last January's forecast] is the direct result of the strong economic growth the president's tax relief has fueled." The natural follow-up question for David Rosenbaum to ask is: But your forecast last January already included the effects on the economy of George W. Bush's tax relief. How can a change in your forecast between then and now be attributed to a factor--tax relief--that was in the forecast then, is in the forecast now, and has not changed? Don't changes in the forecast have to be the result of things that have changed, and not of things that have stayed the same? But David Rosenbaum doesn't ask this natural question--he takes Josh Bolten's quote and leads with it. Why not? David Rosenbaum is clueless about forecasts and the budget, has never bothered to educate himself, and is unqualified to write this story. David Rosenbaum knows that if he does anything other than parrot what Josh Bolten wishes him to parrot he will lose his ability to get administration-quotes-on-deadline, and his editors will be mad at him....

Posted by DeLong at 09:15 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Are These the Heirs of Edward R. Murrow and William Shirer? Edition)

Atrios and Robert Waldmann drop their jaws in amazement as they see Paul Krugman's: The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Triumph of the Trivial: I've been reading 60 days' worth of transcripts from the places four out of five Americans cite as where they usually get their news: the major cable and broadcast TV networks. Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Mr. Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured. When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in it. distorted by the executive producer of "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" into: Poynter Online - Forums: From JIM MURPHY, executive producer, "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather": The entire staff of the "CBS Evening News with Dan Rather" was pretty miffed after reading Paul Krugman's column today that claimed not a SINGLE issues piece has aired on the big newscasts in the past two months. He must have missed the SIXTEEN different "issues" pieces we did over a four week period during that time, part of...

Posted by DeLong at 01:14 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Ignorance of Physics Department)

*Sigh* Gregg Easterbrook trashes physicist Stephen Hawking: The New Republic Online: Expert Tease: So Stephen Hawking now says he was completely wrong about black holes--they don't crush reality out of existence, and they aren't doorways to alternate universes.... It would be tempting to say that Hawking was able to become internationally famous while saying kooky things because today physicists have the status once held by medieval priests: People don't challenge their mumbo-jumbo. Or perhaps Hawking was able to get away with saying kooky things because knowledge of science is so poor: Book critics and the television newscasters who interviewed him assumed the mumbo-jumbo must make sense and felt insecure about simply saying, "Time moving in reverse, what claptrap." For years the science community has been quietly uneasy about Hawking's high profile, since he's gotten away with asserting considerable nonsense and then defending himself by waving equations. At least he has finally confessed, and presumably in the future will be more circumspect. Unless time begins to run backward, in which case he's already been circumspect, but will, as he grows younger, start shooting from the hip.... Goes on to ridicule the Big-Bang theory for violating the "common-sense test": What came before...

Posted by DeLong at 12:47 PM

July 30, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (TV News Edition)

Paul Krugman bangs his head against the wall once again: Triumph of the Trivial: Under the headline "Voters Want Specifics From Kerry," The Washington Post recently quoted a voter demanding that John Kerry and John Edwards talk about "what they plan on doing about health care for middle-income or lower-income people. I have to face the fact that I will never be able to have health insurance, the way things are now. And these millionaires don't seem to address that." Mr. Kerry proposes spending $650 billion extending health insurance to lower- and middle-income families. Whether you approve or not, you can't say he hasn't addressed the issue. Why hasn't this voter heard about it? Well, I've been reading 60 days' worth of transcripts from the places four out of five Americans cite as where they usually get their news: the major cable and broadcast TV networks. Never mind the details - I couldn't even find a clear statement that Mr. Kerry wants to roll back recent high-income tax cuts and use the money to cover most of the uninsured. When reports mentioned the Kerry plan at all, it was usually horse race analysis - how it's playing, not what's in...

Posted by DeLong at 06:59 AM

July 20, 2004
Sovereign Iraq (Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?)

Busy, Busy, Busy writes about "Sovereign Iraq". If I were Negroponte, I wouldn't do things like this. You've chosen Allawi: now don't jiggle his elbow. But I'm not Negroponte (although I do have as little Arabic as he does): Busy, Busy, Busy: The prime minister of sovereign Iraq was apparently under the misapprehension that that he was the prime minister of a sovereign country when he decided to offer amnesty to Iraqi insurgents in the interest of reconciliation. Worse, in not excluding from his offer insurgents who had attacked Americans, he was behaving as if an Iraqi life was worth no more and no less than an American life. But the American ambassador, a certain John Negroponte, soon disabused him of such notions. From the LA Times: On one point, Ambassador Negroponte was clear: The United States would oppose any effort by the Iraqi interim government to grant amnesty to insurgents who participated in attacks on Americans. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has said that the government is working on a broad amnesty proposal aimed at those who participated in the insurgency. "I would take exception to that," he said when asked how he would respond if the amnesty extended to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:57 PM

July 16, 2004
The "Dump Cheney" Movement

Dan Froomkin writes about the "drop Cheney" rumors: washingtonpost.com – White House Briefing: Have you ever heard so many people talking about a non-story? Well, I'm not one to buck a trend. I just report about 'em. So here's all the latest about the rumors about Vice President Cheney getting dumped from the ticket. It was a big-time rumor smackdown on the NBC Nightly News, when Tim Russert told Brian Williams last night: "Brian, I have talked to five -- count 'em, five -- senior Bush campaign advisers, and every one of them, starting with Karl Rove on down, said Dick Cheney is on the ticket to stay." Russert said the advisers told him there are lots of reasons: Cheney is an asset to the campaign, an articulate defender of the president, and Bush's conservative base would be livid if he was dropped. Plus, Russert says: "The president is a man who is loyal, a man who is not complicated but consistent, and he would never do this to the closest vice president in history. . . . "I have never heard these advisers more emphatic that Dick Cheney is on the ticket to stay." But Bill Plante reports on...

Posted by DeLong at 09:30 AM

It's Unfair to Pick on the Economist's "Lexington"

It's unfair to pick on the Economist's "Lexington" for past misjudgments of the Bush administration. But it is irresistible: Economist.com | Lexington: George Bush, homme sérieux: Feb 8th 2001: ONLY the other day the clever line on George Bush was that he was nothing but a lazy frat boy.... Mr Bush is certainly immune to his predecessor’s obsession with intellectual credentials (indeed, the Clinton White House, all brains, back-stabbing and lechery, was arguably the closest America has ever got to the Sorbonne).... His administration has so far been a model of disciplined efficiency. Every week brings a new White House initiative; every meeting starts and ends on time.... The past 40 years have seen the creation of a new Republican constituency, the conservative intelligentsia... the rise of right-wing think-tanks... the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal... vital role in driving the Republican Party’s successes, persuading it to embrace “unthinkable” ideas such as tax cuts and welfare reform. And Republican presidents who have ignored the intellectual wing of their party—most notably, George Bush senior—have paid dearly. Mr Bush has been careful to balance practical types like his defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, with policy wonks. Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser.......

Posted by DeLong at 09:07 AM

July 14, 2004
Abu Ghraib

Matt Stoller and Andrew Northrup point us at Ed Cone. Either Sy Hersh has gone completely insane, or the House needs to vote to impeach George W. Bush tonight: EdCone.com:Seymour Hersh says the US government has videotapes of boys being sodomized at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. "The worst is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking," the reporter told an ACLU convention last week. Hersh says there was "a massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there, and higher." (I transcribed some of his speech from this streaming site. Hersh starts at about 1:07:50.) He called the prison scene "a series of massive crimes, criminal activity by the president and the vice president, by this administration anyway…war crimes." The outrages have cost us the support of moderate Arabs, says Hersh. "They see us as a sexually perverse society." Hersh describes a Pentagon in crisis... with large sums of cash missing, including something like $1 billion that was supposed to be in Iraq. "The disaffection inside the Pentagon is extremeley acute," Hersh says. He tells the story of an officer telling Rumsfeld how bad things are, and Rummy turning to a ranking general yes-man who reassured him...

Posted by DeLong at 05:59 PM

July 13, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

Matthew Yglesias asks why we don't have true headlines and leads, like "President Defends Iraq War by Making S*** Up": matthew: Bush Hatin': Why do I hate George W. Bush? Let me count the ways. Or, rather, let me just count one. In response to the SSCI Report which clearly establishes that the reasons the president gave us for going to war involved several key factual claims that turn out to be false, the president had two viable options. One would be to concede that the reason offered (a direct, short-term military threat posed by Iraq) reflected the imperatives of Security Council politics rather than the administration's real thinking and instead offer up one of the two dozen or so "right reasons" for war that various pundits have offered over the past several years. Another would be to say that the stated reason was the real reason and that the factual judgments underlying it were reasonable ex ante, though ex post we can see that they were wrong. This is the William F. Buckley position: "if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have supported that." Instead of picking one of these two alternatives, however, the president (once...

Posted by DeLong at 10:31 AM

July 12, 2004
Wince-Inducing Moment? Wince-Inducing Moment!? WINCE-INDUCING MOMENT!?!?

Michael Isikoff shows off his considerable journalistic skills once more: MSNBC - 'The Dots Never Existed': Colin Powell was putting the finishing touches on his speech to the United Nations spelling out the case for war in Iraq. Across the Potomac River, a Pentagon intelligence analyst going over the facts in the speech was alarmed at how shaky that case was. Powell's presentation relied heavily on the claims of one especially dubious Iraqi defector, dubbed "Curve Ball" inside the intel community. A self-proclaimed chemical engineer who was the brother of a top aide to Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad Chalabi, Curve Ball had told the German intelligence service that Iraq had a fleet of seven mobile labs used to manufacture deadly biological weapons. But nobody inside the U.S. government had ever actually spoken to the informant—except the Pentagon analyst, who concluded the man was an alcoholic and utterly useless as a source. He recalled that Curve Ball had shown up for their only meeting nursing a "terrible hangover." After reading Powell's speech, the analyst decided he had to speak up, according to a devastating report from the Senate intelligence committee, released last week, on intelligence failures leading up to the...

Posted by DeLong at 05:44 PM

How Early Was Iraq Placed on the Menu?

Robert Waldmann reads the New York Times before I do, and learns that Iraq was on the menu as early as September 20, 2001--which is, of course, what Paul O'Neill and Richard Clarke said, and what the Bushies vehemently denied: Robert's random thoughts: Muhammad Al-Zubaidi... INC efforts to pump up stories about Iraqi WMD and alleged ties to al Qaeda.... not a very credible source.... The bit in the NYT article which I found most interesting, has nothing to do with Al-Zubaidi: On Sept. 20, 2001, with the Pentagon hallways still reeking of smoke and disaster, Mr. Chalabi met with the Defense Policy Board, a group of private citizens that advises the secretary of defense. The clear consensus was that Mr. Hussein had to be removed from power in Iraq, in the interests of stabilizing the region and thwarting his support for terrorists, according to Mr. Brooke, who accompanied Mr. Chalabi to the Pentagon. So, over at the Pentagon, minds were made up by September 20 2001. This is obviously true, but had been denied when Clarke made the claim. Notice the odd attitude towards evidence. It is not that they are trying to decide what to do, so they...

Posted by DeLong at 11:18 AM

Approval Polls

The most remarkable thing about presidential approval polls is the ten-point spread among different polls. You'd think the pollsters would have figured out by now whose methodology is biased. You'd think reporters would by now have learned to say that poll X is "usually 4 points below the average poll." But they haven't:...

Posted by DeLong at 09:15 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Washington Post Again Day)

Joshua Micah Marshall is unhappy with the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: July 04, 2004 - July 10, 2004 Archives: I'll dispense with the literary prologue and get right to the point. Susan Schmidt is known, happily among DC Republicans and not so happily among DC Democrats, as what you might call the "Mikey" (a la Life Cereal fame) of the DC press corps, especially when the cereal is coming from Republican staffers. This morning she has an article on the Senate intel report and Joe Wilson, specifically focusing on the relevance of Wilson's reporting on Niger (the report says analysts did not see Wilson's findings as weakening claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger) and his wife's role in recommending him for the assignment. We'll discuss the broader issues of Plame's role in Wilson's assignment and the underlying question of the alleged Iraq-Niger negotiations. A clearer-eyed take on Wilson and report can be found here in this story by Knight Ridder. But for now a few points on Schmidt's treatment. In her fourth paragraph Schmidt writes that "contrary to Wilson's assertions and even the government's previous statements, the CIA did...

Posted by DeLong at 08:05 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Fidel Castro Has Outlasted... Edition)

James Di Benedetto endangers his health by reading the Washington Post's Tom Toles: The Eleven Day Empire: There Ought to Be A Law...: Or at least an unwritten rule, that any journalist, opinion writer or public figure who utters the phrase "Fidel Castro has outlasted (x number of) U.S. Presidents" will be banned from all public discourse for, say, a year. For the first offense. I'm sorry, but that's one of those cliches that really bugs me, and it's used this morning in the WashPost... a smiling Fidel saying: "Our policy is simple. It stays. I stay. U.S. Presidents always go." Yes, they do, Mr. Toles, because, in case you've forgotten, U.S. Presidents are, by the Constitution, prohibited from serving more than eight years as President. We've had 10 Presidential elections since Castro took power and installed himself as President for life. It just isn't all that clever to say that good old Fidel has outlasted American leaders; it's about as clever as saying that you've outlived your last dozen goldfish......

Posted by DeLong at 07:40 AM

July 10, 2004
An Infantile Disorder

Timothy Noah has fallen in love with Barbara Ehrenreich: Chatterbox: ...Barbara Ehrenreich has established herself as the Times's best columnist. This is, of course, a snap judgment, but Ehrenreich has long been one of the most eloquent voices on the left, which, as distinct from liberalism, has not had much access to the mainstream press for many years. The Bush administration has revitalized the left, making it necessary for the rest of us—liberals like Chatterbox as well as conservatives—to keep abreast of what it's saying.... The Times op-ed page desperately needs her mature voice, her sharp mind, and the challenge her ideas pose to the common wisdom... I say, "God, no!" and "PUH-LEEZE!!" It may be because Barbara Ehrenreich is a typical voice of the American left that it will in all probability be a waste of ink and paper to put her on the Times op-ed page, but a waste of ink and paper it will most likely be. I agree that Barbara Ehrenreich is a very smart and graceful writer, a keen analyst of American culture and society--she is worth, say, ten of David Brooks. But her brand of left-wing politics is an infantile disorder. Left-wing politics is,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:25 PM

July 09, 2004
Why I Will Not Subscribe to the National Journal

Erin Waters, from the office of the publisher of the National Journal, writes me an email: From: Erin Waters ext@njp.omessage.com To: delong@econ.Berkeley.EDU Subject: National Journal access Date: Thu, 8 Jul 2004 09:00:00 -0500 Reply-To: ewaters@nationaljournal.com X-MailSessionID: zc9HkYZWq07.JiHM8uSC0HZrrYAAAZU6AAAAbAE= Status: Dear Brad, Over the next several weeks, you will receive complimentary issues of National Journal, the leading weekly on politics, policy and government. I'm sending them to you because I thought you would find them valuable to your work. There is no obligation and you will not receive a bill. You'll receive a total of five free issues and access to our subscribers-only Web site.... I've also included a http://njp.omessage.com/lrd0_AAGVOgAAAGwB fact sheet, which provides more detail on National Journal and its features. Please let me know if you have any questions about this complimentary trial. Regards, Erin Waters Office of the Publisher Erin Waters National Journal Group 600 New Hampshire Ave, NW Washington DC 20037 Ph: 202-266-7052 My reaction: I will not subscribe, I will not pay a cent to the National Journal until all connections between the magazine and Stuart Taylor, Jr., have been severed. Sometimes when you "feign suffocation"--i.e., make people think they are going to drown--they actually do drown,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:19 AM

July 08, 2004
Andrew Sullivan Calls George W. Bush a Dirty Commie-Lover

Courtesy of the Poor Man and Oliver Willis, 3 1/2 years ago American politician George W. Bush praised African-American poet Langston Hughes. Now Andrew Sullivan attacks American politicians who praise Hughes as dirty Communist sympathizers. I think that Sullivan has crossed the line. We really do need a much better press corps: George W. Bush: When we examine our Nation's history, we discover these and countless other stories that inspire us. They are stories of the triumph of the human spirit, tragic stories of cruelty rooted in ignorance and bigotry, yet stories of everyday people rising above their circumstances and the prejudice of others to build lives of dignity. This month, and throughout the year, let us celebrate and remember these stories, which reflect the history of African Americans and all Americans. We can all enjoy the works of writers like Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes. Now Andrew Sullivan tells us exactly what he thinks of American politicians--like George W. Bush--who praise Langston Hughes: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: Wouldn't it be helpful to read the Langston Hughes poem? Here it is in full. It is indeed beautiful and lyrical if a little trite...

Posted by DeLong at 08:17 PM

Writing About Writing About Productivity

Virginia Postrel writes about writing about productivity: Dynamist Blog: THE BIG (ECONOMIC) STORY: I look at one piece of that very big story: the spreading use of operations research techniques once confined to theory. (What's operations research? The story explains that too, or tries to without using any math, graphs, or jargon about optimizing subject to constraints or finding interior solutions. For more on the field, see the INFORMS site.) Of course, very few general-interest publications would let a writer spend nearly 2,000 words writing about operations research--or, for that matter, rising productivity. Brad is exactly right that journalists aren't covering this story, but he doesn't offer any reasons why. As a journalist, let me suggest a few: 1) The productivity story is boring. It isn't really, but editors think it is. There's no obvious conflict, no scandal, no little guy getting hurt (unless you portray rising productivity as throwing people out of work, which is the most common angle). The improvements that drive productivity increases are incremental--hence, not dramatic--and often technical. 2) The productivity story isn't political. Neither George Bush nor Bill Clinton deserves any credit, except for not getting in the way. Not getting in the way is...

Posted by DeLong at 08:02 PM

Now Perhaps If He'd Been Smart Enough to Say All This Back in 2000...

A bunch of correspondents have said that I should read Andrew Sullivan's denunciation of Bush Republicanism: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: BUSH REPUBLICANS: Kate O'Beirne has an interesting follow-up to her previous complaint about the lack of "Bush Republicans" in the New York Convention line-up. But what is a "Bush Republican"? I think it has to be a combination of the social policy of the religious right (the FMA, bans on embryo research, government support for religious charities, etc), the fiscal policy of the Keynesian left (massive new domestic spending combined with "deficits don't matter"), and the foreign policy of liberal moralism (democratization as a policy in the Middle East). So it's not surprising, is it, that there aren't many principled "Bush Republicans." Again, the GOP crib sheet on Edwards is interesting in this respect. He gets zinged, for example, for opposing the new Medicare entitlement. So how many Republicans positively believe in creating a new and fantastically expensive entitlement for the wealthiest segment in American society? I don't mean defensively explain it as unavoidable. I mean positively endorse it as an element in their conservative philosophy. The sad truth is that if Bush Republicanism exists, it's one of the most...

Posted by DeLong at 02:23 PM

July 07, 2004
More Grover Norquist-Quality Facts!

David Corn runs into Grover Norquist, and is able to check out some Norquist-quality facts firsthand: Capital Games: When we were just on [the Diane Rehm Show], I said to [President] Clinton, [Grover] Norquist claimed that you supported Bush's invasion because you were concerned about Saddam Hussein's WMDs. Is that true? The moment was reminiscent of that scene in Woody Allen's Annie Hall when Allen is standing on line inside a movie theater lobby and listening to some blowhard in front of him expounding on the theories of real-life media critic Marhsall McLuhan. Allen then produces McLuhan from behind a movie poster, and McLuhan tells the man on line, "You know nothing of my work." After that Allen says to the camera, "Boy, if life were only like this!" With Norquist squeezed next to him, Clinton said that had not been his position. He acknowledged that he had endorsed the congressional resolution granting Bush the authority to wage war. But, he explained, that was because he had figured Hussein would not have permitted weapons inspectors to return to Iraq without the threat of force. "Hans Blix [the chief weapons inspector] was tough," Clinton said, adding that he had wanted...

Posted by DeLong at 12:19 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

If Max Sawicky doesn't stop reading the Washington Post, he risks severe health status consequences: MaxSpeak, You Listen!: SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POST: Think tanks in Washington produce substantive reports with diverse political views. But few studies are honored by a full article in the Washington Post. By contrast, today a report utterly bereft of underlying documentation or rationale is one of those exceptions. Today we are informed is "Cost of Government Day," a canard cooked up by our old friend Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (sic). Today is supposed to be the day that income earned by "the average American" begins to outstrip the costs of taxes and regulations. This fake study.... Nowhere in the paper is the calculation of anything explained or sourced. Nowhere in the Post article is any dissenting voice cited. It might as well be an ATR press release. It is not quite that bad. The reporter, Christopher Lee, makes one--one--one--single parenthetical (and by that I mean that it is contained in parentheses) criticism of ATR. But it is almost that bad. Max is right: it is a rewritten ATR press release. I wonder at what point Christopher Lee realized that for him...

Posted by DeLong at 12:14 PM

July 06, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Self-Serving But Implausible Leak Edition)

Joshua Micah Marshall uses sarcasm as he contemplates the latest work by New York Times reporter James Risen--a work cooked up from 100% peddled self-interested government leaks without any application on the reporter's part of common sense, or any inclusion of context or mention of critical and dissenting voices. Truly an opportunity for him--and all of us--to bang our heads against the wall: A remarkable turn of events. We know that the chief architects of the war -- at the White House and the Pentagon -- waged a running battle with the CIA for the eighteen months leading up to the war, both on the WMD front and on their too-skeptical take on Iraq's ties to al Qaida. It was the Intelligence Community that was the proverbial stick in the mud holding up the aggressive posture favored by these other forces within the administration. But it now turns out that while the White House claimed the CIA was too cautious and naive about the dangers emanating from Iraq, in fact, the Agency was hoodwinking the president into believing the worst about Iraq and keeping him and his advisors in the dark about the weakness of their claims. You might...

Posted by DeLong at 12:07 PM

July 05, 2004
*Sigh* Yet More Cleaning Up After the Cockroaches

A normal person, reading Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post on June 8, would conclude (i) that Steven Moore is an economist, and (ii) that Kevin Hassett, Eric Engen, Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw, and many other economists are "reevaluating" the view that budget deficits are a significant minus for the economy, believe that "the argument against deficits is more about self-righteous moralism than economics," and broadly agree with Richard Cheney's declaration that "deficits don't matter": Economic Legacy: Reagan Policies Gave Green Light to Red Ink : The line is not likely to make this week's eulogies to Ronald Reagan, but when Vice President Cheney allegedly declared, "Reagan proved deficits don't matter," he summed up an enduring argument from the former president's economic legacy.... It wasn't that Reagan's policies proved that government borrowing had no impact on the economy. But his administration's record -- particularly with some years of hindsight -- did give reason to question traditional thinking.... "The lesson we should have learned [from those years] is that deficits have little or no short-term economic impacts," said William A. Niskanen, a member of Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.... [Deficits] appeared to have no impact politically, said Stephen Moore, a conservative...

Posted by DeLong at 01:21 AM

July 01, 2004
Will I Ever Understand American Journalists?

Eric Umansky is a very good American journalist. Eric Umansky praises Nir Rosen's reporting from Fallujah: Eric Umansky: Peeling Back the Picture in Fallujah: Rosen's piece seems to get far more details on the make-up of the guerrillas than anything else I've seen--including say, the NYT magazine's recent, lengthy story. The reporter for that piece doesn't speak Arabic and as an obviously western guy had very limited access. Rosen by contrast speaks the language and was able to hide his American identity. (He convinced the insurgents that he was Bosnian.) That's not to bludgeon the Times. It's partially about my own doubts. I've done the same thing: Gone places where I don't speak the language, don't have in-depth knowledge of the culture, and then written long, seemingly knowing pieces. I think that story I did accurately portrays the situation I covered. But am I 100 percent sure? No. There's always a tension between trying to convey as much information as possible, molding it into some kind of understandable narrative, and just writing just what you know. And it's worth remembering that when you're in a strange place where you don't speak the language, what you know probably isn't all that...

Posted by DeLong at 11:14 AM

June 30, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Why Does Nicholas Kristof Have a Job? Edition)

Andrew Northrup reads Nicholas Kristof, and his head explodes: The Poor Man: He's Not A Liar, He's My President!: Nicolas Kristof is sick and tired of people calling the President a liar. And he's got lots of arguments about why this is a terrible thing to do: I'm against the "liar" label for two reasons. First, it further polarizes the political cesspool, and this polarization is making America increasingly difficult to govern. Second, insults and rage impede understanding. Indeed. It is wrong to call the President a liar, because that's a bad word. Liberals should think of a nicer way of couching their criticism. Kristoff gives an example: In fact, of course, Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. Indeed, there's some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the most blatant lies — witness his meticulous descriptions of the periods in which he did not use illegal drugs. See? The President doesn't lie, he only exaggerates, maybe stretches the truth on occassion, possibly says things in such a way as to deliberately leave the listener with the wrong impression. Indeed, there's some evidence that Mr. Bush carefully avoids the...

Posted by DeLong at 01:27 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Andrew Sullivan Edition)

Andrew Sullivan on Hillary Rodham Clinton: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: THE ESSENCE OF TODAY'S LIBERALISM: "We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good." The "we", of course, are the Clintons. They know far better than you do how you should spend your money. Because they are morally better people than you are. In this case, "the common good" means "bringing the government's resources back into balance with its expenditures"--what we used to call a "fiscal conservative" stance. Bringing the government's resources back into balance with its expenditures is something that every serious student of America's political economy favors. It's odd. People who were in Lowell House in the 1980s claim that back then Andrew Sullivan was... thoughtful... smart....

Posted by DeLong at 01:20 PM

June 29, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corp? (John Kerry Edition)

At CJR's Campaign Desk, Liz Cox Barrett tears America's political airheaded gossipmongers press into shreds and gobbets, and then eats the gobbets: CJR Campaign Desk: Archives: Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a senator named John who found himself on Al Gore's short list of potential running mates. The campaign press... was entranced.... It tumbled all over itself to describe John as the perfect match for what it saw as the somewhat wooden, robot-like Gore. One newspaper described John as a man with "an easy manner and good looks," a politician whose "charisma [might] rub off on [Gore]," a person who could "bring some charm to the ticket." John's selection, it opined, would signal that Gore "thinks the election will be decided on personality"... "charismatic"... "younger and more telegenic than Dick Cheney"... "handsome," with "a record tailor-made to undermine the standard Republican attack on liberal Democrats." This John's surname was Kerry.... What a difference 1,460 days make. The "handsome," "charismatic" candidate who four years ago had an "easy manner," "charm," and a record impregnable to Republican attack has undergone a hideous transmogrification.... No longer handsome, Kerry... "The Addams Family"'s heavy-browed Lurch... a "long-faced Easter Island...

Posted by DeLong at 07:12 AM

June 28, 2004
The Lion's Share, National Review Style (Why Us? Department)

Crossing my desk this morning. We really do need a much better press corps. All I can say is that we must all have been very, very, very bad in a previous life to have to suffer this in our current one... It is, however, at one level, quite funny: Sadly, No! takes a look at David Frum's analysis of the Canadian economy: David Frum: Between 1993 and 2003, Canada’s total gross domestic product – the value of all Canadian-made goods and Canadian-provided services – rose by two-thirds. [...] Where did that extra production go? That’s the question answered by the second number, 45%. The lion’s share of Canadian economic growth in the 1990s was pocketed by government, especially the federal government. Between 1993 and 2003, federal revenues rose by 45%, or almost $60 billion.... And Sadly, No! calls for backup. Sadly, No! criticizes Frum by performing a reducto ad absurdum, pointing out that Frum's "methodology" could be applied to critique the Reagan years in the United States as a time when big government grabbed the "lion's share" of growth for itself. Let me take on the swamp of misinformation here in the pages of National Review more directly. Let's...

Posted by DeLong at 12:36 PM

June 27, 2004
Intellectual Virtu

Matthew Yglesias is worried and upset that in his business shrillness and sloppiness are key elements of virtu--that is, that they are key means to prominence, influence, and authority: The Dialectic of Inaccuracy: ...we have a systemic bias in our media culture that rewards people who make over-the-top and/or inaccurate attacks on their political opponents. To take myself as an example, early on during my Prospect career I came across a Rich Lowry article on NRO unfairly castigating Bill Clinton's anti-terror policies. I responded with a Tapped post that, among other things, noted that if anyone was ignoring terrorism in the 1990s, it was The National Review. Normally, things would have just ended there. Fortunately for me, however, the post contained a factual error that, while not crucial to the argument, was a really clear case of error. As a result, Lowry had a good hook to write a column in response to my post, noting the error and suggesting that the argument as a whole was every bit as slipshod as the one assertion. I then wrote a counter-response column, apologizing for the error, noting some problems with Lowry's argument, and making the (entirely correct) case that my point...

Posted by DeLong at 10:02 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Structural Flaws Edition)

I've been trying to think about why so much of America's elite press corps is so flawed--does such a lousy and incompetent job so much of the time. I don't have answers. I do have observations and, perhaps, a theory or two. Consider the passage below from the Washington Post. It's one of a hundred or so examples I've filed away over the past year or so--examples of egregiously bad political-economic reporting from elite journalistic institutions. It's not the worst such example, but it is selected from a set of howlers. The reporter (Jonathan Weisman) is not the worst example, but I certainly wouldn't employ him to cover American economics and politics. But structural patterns and pressures are more important here than individuals, and I want to focus on them. Let's roll the tape: Economy Provides No Boost For Bush: The nation's economy is growing smartly, wages have begun to rise, and employers have added more than 1.4 million jobs to their payrolls in the past nine months. Yet voters continue to give President Bush poor ratings on his handling of the economy.... [...] Bush is not the first president to suffer from a disconnect between objective economic indicators and...

Posted by DeLong at 10:25 AM

June 25, 2004
Silence Is Golden

Writing for the National Journal, Stan Collender muses on the disappearance of the Bush economic and budget team: BUDGET BATTLES: The Incredible Disappearing Bush Budget Team By Stan Collender NationalJournal.com Tuesday, June 22, 2004 Has anyone seen or heard from the Bush administration’s economic and budget team?... National Economic Council Chairman Stephen Friedman has been practically invisible.... Greg Mankiw.... hasn’t been heard from since he made a politically incorrect statement back in February about... outsourcing.... Joshua Bolten... has been one of the least visible OMB directors.... John Snow... seems to be perceived more as a cheerleader than as a policymaker.... Dick Cheney... has serious overall credibility problems.... Republican budget and economic policy makers on Capital Hill are also poorly positioned.... [T]he increasing likelihood that there won’t be a budget resolution this year will force them first to defend what they did—or didn’t do—on the budget this year, severely limiting their ability to defend other things... like Bush policies.... All of this presents the White House with a huge problem... no one within or even near the administration has the standing or credibility to defend and promote the Bush budget and economic records other than the president himself. The problem is...

Posted by DeLong at 08:58 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Today Show Edition)

Tim Dunlop watches the self-parody edition of the Today Show, and then bangs his head against the wall: the road to surfdom: The breathtaking stupidity of the mainstream media. Argghh. Just watched an entire segment on the Today show discussing why John Kerry wasn't currently getting much media coverage. Yes, folks. Apparently serious journalists spent an entire segment talking about why apparently serious journalists aren't talking about John Kerry. The idea that they might do a story on, say, John Kerry's health policy instead of spending their time talking about how no-one is talking about John Kerry's health policy (or whatever) doesn't seem to have occured to them. And of course, they knew who to blame for this peculiar state of affairs. Why, it was the media, who are too busy covering Reagan's death and Clinton's book. Well, at least they cleared that up. Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

Posted by DeLong at 07:34 AM

June 24, 2004
The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World of National Review

Matthew Yglesias climbs to the mountain peak and gazes out in wild surmise at the ocean of stupidity that is National Review's economics coverage: Matthew Yglesias: June 20, 2004 - June 26, 2004 Archives:A Novel Theory: "How To Abuse Accounting Identities," by Tom Nugent of The National Review: What the senators and media don't get is the basic equation that defines the role of government deficits in the economy: The federal government deficit = non-government savings (of net financial assets). That's fact, not theory, a.k.a. an "accounting identity." Non-government savings include that of both residents of the U.S. and foreigners. If the federal budget deficit of $450 billion about equals the current account deficit, it means that all the net financial assets added by the deficit are being saved by foreigners, who desire to hold all those dollar-denominated U.S. financial assets and are willing to net export to us in order to get them. This data indicates is that the federal deficit is too small for the U.S. domestic sector to save anything! Domestic savings are low because the budget deficit is too low. Low and unobtainable savings means low demand, excess capacity, and low levels of employment. In other...

Posted by DeLong at 06:15 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Why Does Richard Cohen Still Have a Job? Department)

Can anyone tell me why Richard Cohen still has a job at the Washington Post? He appears to know nothing of history--not even the history he lived through: Grand 'Oprah,' Poor History (washingtonpost.com): To a large extent, Ulysses S. Grant's presidency was rehabilitated by his memoirs, written as the Civil War general was dying of cancer. Richard Nixon, virtually banished from Washington, wrote book after book from his exurban Elba in New Jersey. Watergate haunted him, as it should have, but slowly we came to realize that he possessed a first-class mind, keenly analytical, occasionally wise. No one could say that Nixon did not have gravitas. Rehabilitate Grant's presidency? Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant told the story of Grant the general and rehabilitated the reputation of Grant the man. It did nothing to rehabilitate Grant's presidency. Richard Nixon? Gravitas? From his early claims that Helen Gahagan Douglas did the will of the Kremlin and denunciations of "Dean Acheson's cowardly college of communist containment" (meaning "let's start World War III right now!"); through his commands to H.R. Haldeman to bomb the Brookings Institution and plant evidence that the left had done it; up to his last hysterical intervention in U.S. politics:...

Posted by DeLong at 06:46 AM

June 23, 2004
As I Walked Out on the Streets of D.C., As I Walked Out on the Streets of D.C. One Day, I Spied an Ex-President...

Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry reviews Clinton's My Life for the New York Times Book Review. He likes it. No sneering at it for being a "pastiche" of a life written by a guy boring enough to watch the inauguration of the President of Nigeria here. No complaints about forced marches through arid policy debates here. McMurtry calls the book what it is: "[N]o other book tells us as vividly or fully what it is like to be president of the United States for eight years. Clinton had the good sense to couple great smarts with a solid education; he arrived in Washington in 1964 and has been the nation's - or perhaps the world's - No. 1 politics junkie ever since. And he can write - as Reagan, Ford, Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson, to go no farther back, could not. "[...] "If Bill Clinton had been a prime minister rather than a president this book would have been in two volumes, if not three, and thus not quite such a wrestle. But if he had been a prime minister rather than a president no one would have paid him the reported $10 million for it, however well he...

Posted by DeLong at 05:56 PM

Levels and Rates of Change, Jake, Levels and Rates of Change...

The very sharp and usually incisive Jake Schlesinger fails to distinguish between levels and rates of change: WASHINGTON -- With the economy now growing at a rapid clip, and employers finally hiring again in industrial Midwest battleground states, Democrats are losing a pillar of their 2004 campaign argument: that a weak recovery is making it unusually hard for Americans to find work... That the labor market is finally improving--that it is no longer becoming harder and harder month by month to find jobs--does not mean that the labor market is good. A few months of employment gains are good news: they mean that it is a little less bad out there in the labor market than it used to be. But don't confuse rates of change with levels: there are still perhaps 4 million people either unemployed or out of the labor force who would have jobs if we had a labor market in equilibrium. (And there are 6 million who would have jobs if we were in a boom like the late 1990s.) It's still unusually hard for Americans to find work--just not as unusually hard as it was six months ago. But I already said this yesterday:...

Posted by DeLong at 10:59 AM

June 22, 2004
It's Self-Parody, Just Not Intentional Self-Parody

Eugene Volokh reads Will Saletan's "Kerryisms" and has a "Huh?" moment: The Volokh Conspiracy - Archives 2004-06-15 - 2004-06-21: Huh? Kerry was asked: Is the support for Roe v. Wade a critical point, a litmus test, for any court appointee you would make? Kerry answered: To the Supreme Court of the United States, yes. The Kerryism edited version, which I assume is supposed to be equivalent to Kerryism's original point but better put (remember their original charter, which is "translat[ing]" Kerry's words "into plain English," by removing "caveats and pointless embellishments") is: Yes. But that's not what Kerry wanted to say! It would be a stupid thing to say, both from a policy perspective (even if he firmly supports constitutional abortion rights, why should he turn it into a litmus test for district court judges?) and from a political perspective (if he does set up such a broad litmus test even for district court judges, he'd look like a fanatic). What exactly is the point of the Kerryisms? At first, I thought -- based on the column's introductory installment -- the Kerryisms were meant to show that Kerry throws in lots of unnecessary verbiage. But here, this was a necessary...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 PM

A Correction from the Washington Post

The Washington Post has retracted its false claim that John Kerry was wrong to say that real wages are falling: MaxSpeak, You Listen!: From the print edition of the Washington Post: CORRECTION: On June 19 we wrote that wage increases had kept pace with inflation in the year to May, and criticized Sen. John F. Kerry for suggesting that wages had fallen behind. We were wrong and Mr. Kerry was right: Hourly wages for non-supervisory workers rose 2.2 percent, while the consumer price index rose 3.1 percent. Perhaps we can take a step further forward, and get corrections of some of the analytical (rather than merely the arithmetic) blunders in the Post's editorial? Jobs and Mr. Kerry (washingtonpost.com): ...job creation, which appeared surprisingly weak a few months ago despite strong economic growth, is now healthy -- and statistical revisions suggest that it was robust as far back as March and respectable in January... [...] If Mr. Kerry's message seems exaggerated now, it will seem even less convincing soon. Job markets recover in three phases: As the economy picks up, employers ask workers to put in extra hours; when they've exhausted that option, they hire new workers; when new workers become...

Posted by DeLong at 02:22 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Michael Isikoff Edition)

Eric Alterman is unhappy with Newsweek's coverage of Bill Clinton's book: MSNBC - Altercation: Media Self Parody:  Newsweek (having lost out to Time for the Clinton interview) assigns to review the book .. Michael Isikoff!  He complains that Clinton "forces the reader on a joyless march through arid policy debates." "Arid." Yep. That's Michael Isikoff. Actually talking about what the government does, and how what the government does affects the real lives of real people--that's BORING! And Clinton is a weenie for making people like Isikoff read about it....

Posted by DeLong at 12:54 PM

June 21, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another LA Times Edition)

Kevin Drum watches Arnold Schwarzenegger snooker the LA Times: The Washington Monthly: SMOKE AND MIRRORS....I was all ready to give Arnold some props when I read this story in the LA Times tonight: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today signed new gambling compacts with representatives of five Indian tribes, securing a $1-billion payment to the state this year, helping to close the coming year's fiscal budget gap. A billion dollars. Not bad! That's a little less than he talked about during the campaign, but more than he projected in his preliminary budget in January. But then I read this: The $1-billion payment to the state will be financed by a bond repaid over 18 years. Upon repayment of the bond, the tribes will then make annual payments to the state until 2030, when the compact expires. So it turns out that Arnold didn't negotiate a deal get an additional billion dollars a year from the tribes. He didn't negotiate a deal to get half a billion dollars from the tribes. He caved in and negotiated a deal to get a lousy $40 million a year from the tribes, less than 5% of what he claimed he could get during the campaign. And...

Posted by DeLong at 09:53 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

Why not get somebody to work on the Washington Post editorial page who faintly knows what he or she is doing? Billmon bangs his head against the wall as he contemplates the situation: Whiskey Bar: Dumb as a Post: When I was covering economics, the Washington Post was famous for having exactly one reporter who knew something about the beat (John Berry, now of Bloomberg News) amid a sea of economic ignorance spread throughout the rest of the newsroom. Now it just has the sea. An old financial journalism colleague of mine points out this claim from a June 19 Kerry-bashing Post editorial: Jobs and Mr. Kerry: Now comes the next round of political gloom-mongering. Sen. John F. Kerry, the victor in the Democratic primaries, has been telling voters this week that although job creation may have recovered, wages are the real problem. "In the last year, wages have gone down, and prices have gone up," the candidate told an audience on Tuesday. Actually, hourly wages for non-supervisory workers have risen this year by 2.2 percent as of May, so they kept pace with consumer price inflation. "What the hell is the matter with these guys?" my friend asks. Well,...

Posted by DeLong at 05:47 PM

June 20, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Reading A1 Edition)

This time it is Reading A1 that bangs its head against the wall at the spectacle of New York Times reporter Richard Stevenson once again being Reading A1: ..."too craven, and too lazy, to oppose Administration spin today with facts drawn from the record.  This is true in several places in the article, nowhere more embarrassingly than in the matter of the much-debunked fable of a Prague meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence... Mr. Cheney said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday that the administration had never been able to prove the meeting took place but was not able to disprove it either. "We just don't know," Mr. Cheney said. Leave aside Cheney's transparent intellectual dishonesty, which turns the impossibility of absolutely proving a negative into a practical affirmation of the positive.  (Rhetorical notions, like plausibility, or degrees of proof, have no place in Cheney's Platonic la-la land.)  As nearly complete disproof of the Prague story as possible (to convince reasonable people) has, in fact, already been offered in the commission staff report—as noted by, among others, the NY Times' own James Risen earlier this week: The report cited a photograph taken by a bank surveillance...

Posted by DeLong at 08:46 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Why Does Fred Hiatt Still Have a Job? Department)

Matthew Yglesias reads Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt, and bangs his head against the wall: Matthew Yglesias: June 20, 2004 - June 26, 2004 Archives: Hiatt buys a little spin: This is the irony of Bremer's legacy. A ruthlessly methodical executive, he set numerical goals for himself more than a year ago and mostly met them: electricity restored, schools rebuilt, provincial councils formed. Yet he can barely travel in Baghdad. Polls show that he and his occupation are reviled, and Iraqis who cooperate with Americans are less safe than ever. It's far from clear that Bremer's "building blocks" will survive. They haven't met the electricity generation goals set 12 months ago -- they're not even close. Nor have they met the oil production goals, the telephone landline goals, the security training goals or, as far as I can tell, any of Bremer's numerical goals. But whatever. Matthew is right: In this case--as in many others--the amount of information conveyed by the Post would be increased if this column of Hiatt's were simply replaced by white space, or by another Nordstrom's ad....

Posted by DeLong at 08:23 AM

June 19, 2004
Ah. The Economist Issues a Correction

Ah. The Economist issues a correction: Economist.com: Last week (“Cursed by lagging perceptions”) we suggested that the current pace of job growth (an average of 238,000 new jobs per month this year) meant that a forecast published in February by George Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, which suggested 2.6m new jobs would be created in 2004, might prove too low. In fact, the CEA'S forecasts were based on calendar-year averages, not year-end figures, and their calculations actually implied the creation of more than 320,000 new jobs per month during 2004. 320,000 per month is 3.8 million over the calendar year. The Wall Street Journal, however, has not yet corrected its June 8 observation that "readers may recall that chief White House economist Greg Mankiw was widely ridiculed in February for predicting that the economy would create 2.6 million new jobs this year." And I don't believe that the Wall Street Journal ever will....

Posted by DeLong at 09:14 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Unclear on the Concept Department)

Joel Achenbach, Washington Post staff writer, badly needs to review the differences between "president", "king", and "high priest": washingtonpost.com: On 9/11, a Telling Seven-Minute Silence: However it is interpreted, it points out a basic truth about any president: He's both an executive and a symbolic figure. He's the spiritual leader of the nation as well as the head of state. He's monarch and prime minister. [...] But even the harshest critics concede that the nation's spiritual leader rallied in the days thereafter......

Posted by DeLong at 11:16 AM

June 18, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Another Interesting Juxtaposition Department)

Another interesting juxtaposition. The Washington Post editorial staff writes: An Iraq Sideshow (washingtonpost.com): ...showing a peculiar instinct for the capillaries rather than the jugular, part of the public debate immediately focused on a single passing point that is no kind of revelation at all: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." Administration foes seized on this sentence to claim that Vice President Cheney has been lying... about a purported relationship between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The accusation is nearly as irresponsible as the Bush administration's rhetoric has been.... Nor, in fact, did the commission yesterday contradict what Mr. Cheney actually said -- and President Bush backed up -- earlier this week: that there were "long-established ties" between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.... [T]he commission has not denied that there were contacts over a protracted period... But Dan Froomkin says: washingtonpost.com – White House Briefing: today's prize may belong to Mimi Hall of USA Today, who simply reminds her reader: "In a letter to Congress on March 19, 2003 -- the day the war in Iraq began -- Bush said that the war was permitted under legislation authorizing force...

Posted by DeLong at 12:13 AM

June 17, 2004
Calvin and Hobbes Struck Long Ago

Anatol tells us that the Los Angeles Times's op-ed page is way behind the curve in its attacks on "secular thought" as a religion. The definitive such attack was made by Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin: "Math is not a science. It's a religion. Here is a bunch of numbers, and by some magic they become another bunch of numbers. You either believe it, or you don't. As a math atheist, I demand being freed of this". Hobbes: "In public school, no less. Call a lawyer"...

Posted by DeLong at 10:03 PM

Crooked Timber: Tomorrow's Conventional Wisdom Today!

On February 26, 2003, Daniel Davies wrote: D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone: I find myself with a few spare minutes and make the mistake of reading Thomas Friedman again. His conclusion after a long, dull and witless ramble... reads "If [it is] done right, the Middle East will never be the same. If done wrong, the world will never be the same". There's not much you can say to that except "shut up you silly man". But it does inspire in me the desire for a competition; can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics: It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration. It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it). It wasn't in some important way completely f***** up during the execution. On June 17, 2004, New Republic editor Peter Beinart writes: The New Republic Online: Partisan Review I tried hard not to be partisan. I distrusted the Bush administration and feared it would be politically empowered by the war. But such thoughts felt petty and limited at such...

Posted by DeLong at 08:55 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (LA Times Editorial Page Edition)

Kevin Drum is alarmed: The Washington Monthly: LA TIMES EDITORIAL PAGE....I missed this op-ed by David Klinghoffer in the LA Times this morning, but Matt Yglesias is right: it is the most abjectly puerile thing I've read on a major editorial page in a long time. Did they really publish a guy who claims, "There is a secular creation account — evolution through random mutation and natural selection, a just-so story increasingly challenged by scientists"? So, we have both Barone and Klinghoffer in the Times today peddling junior high school essays as adult opinion. And I'd like to note that today is June 17th, the third day of Michael Kinsley's reign as editorial and opinion editor. I'm going to be as charitable as possible and assume that he's clearing out the slush pile while still trying to get his arms around things, because the only other interpretation is that he actually thought these were both worthwhile contributions to the public discourse. And I really, really don't want to believe that....

Posted by DeLong at 04:44 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (God! I'm Cranky Today! Department)

"Dad! The phone is for you!" "Who is it?" [Silence] "He says his name is [redacted]." "No last name?" "No last name?" "Hello?" "Hello, Professor DeLong. I guess I got your name from [redacted] at Berkeley. I'm [redacted] [redacted] from [redacted] magazin e. Were doing a story on the performance of the economy under the different post-World War II presidents, and..." "Now presidents don't control the economy. They influence it. And their policies influence the economy not just while they are in office but afterwards as well." "That's very true. What we are looking for is..." "Now there are two kinds of stories you could be writing. The positive one would be to start by saying that presidents influence but do not control the economy--that most of what happens is the economy following its own path. It would go on to say that presidential policies do influence the economy, to lay out how policies influence the economy, and to evaluate presidents' economic policies. The negative one--the actual subtraction from the American people's knowledge--would be to throw together some simplistic indicators of presidential economic performance over which presidents have little or no control, and rank presidents by those indicators. Which are...

Posted by DeLong at 01:37 PM

June 16, 2004
An Interesting Juxtaposition

An interesting juxtaposition. Dan Froomkin writes: washingtonpost.com – White House Briefing: President Bush yesterday pointed to Abu Musab Zarqawi as the "best evidence" of a connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.... [H]e... [put] himself at odds with the Sept. 11 commission and the intelligence community.... Communications between Zarqawi and al Qaeda that Bush alluded to yesterday took place several months after Hussein was removed from power. And a new report released this morning by the Sept. 11 commission declares that there is "no credible evidence" that Hussein's government collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, including the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings.... "Before the war, intelligence officials said, Zarqawi was operating with the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group Ansar Al Islam in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, not in territory under the control of Hussein's regime...." Dana Milbank writes in today's Washington Post that Bush "renewed an assertion that Hussein had longstanding ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network, one of the justifications underpinning the Iraq war. The alleged link between Hussein and al Qaeda has taken on more importance with the failure to find weapons of mass destruction.... Vice President Cheney... said in a speech...

Posted by DeLong at 04:20 PM

More American Enterprise Institute-Quality Research

*Sigh*. More cleaning up after the elephants. More American Enterprise Institute-quality research. Tyler Cowen--who certainly knows better--and Daniel Drezner--who ought by now have learned better--links to a "study" from the American Enterprise Institute that says: Ronald Reagan sought--and won--more spending cuts than any other modern president. He is the only president in the last forty years to cut inflation-adjusted nondefense outlays, which fell by 9.7 percent during his first term. George W. Bush, in contrast, increased real nondefense spending by at least 25.3 percent during his first term.... President Reagan believed that the federal government had usurped private, state, and local responsibilities and consequently thought the budgets of most departments and agencies should be cut. Following are comparisons of budget cuts during each presidential term going back to the Johnson administration: President Reagan cut the budget of 8 agencies out of 15 during his first term and the budget of 10 out of 15 during his second term. President Clinton cut the budget of 9 out of 15 agencies during his first term but cut none during his second term. President George W. Bush has cut none of the agencies' budgets during his first term. But there are some numbers...

Posted by DeLong at 12:39 AM

June 15, 2004
Don't Get too Close to the Hill of Megiddo This Month

John Gorenfeld reports in the indispensable Gadflyer on the latest sign of the End Times: The coronation of Sun Myung Moon as Emperor and Messiah with a crown carried on a velvety purple cushion by Congressman Danny K. Davis. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA.), Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), Republican strategy god Charlie Black, Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), and Davis. One of Gorenfeld's highlights: "Rep. Curt Weldon's office tenaciously denied that the Congressman was there, before being provided by The Gadflyer with a photo depicting Weldon at the event, found on Moon's website. 'Apparently he was there, but we really had nothing to do with it,' press secretary Angela Sowa finally conceded. 'I don't think it's quite accurate that the Washington Times said that we hosted the event. We may have been a Congressional co-host, but we have nothing to do with the agenda, the organization, the scheduling, and our role would be limited explicitly to the attendance of the Congressman.' The spokeswoman for one senator, who asked that her boss not be named, said politicians weren't told the awards program was going to be a Moon event.... When the ceremony morphed into a platform...

Posted by DeLong at 08:16 PM

June 11, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Textile Trade Edition)

Is this a new low in New York Times coverage of global economic issues? Perhaps. Not a word about benefits from ending the Multifiber Agreement for American consumers. Not a word on poor people in developing countries who have been kept in poverty because of artificial blocks to their ability to sell textiles to the United States. Not a word of explanation of why no developing-country governments want the MFA question reopened at the WTO. And no sense that the New York Times has any clue that it should have a reporter who knows the issue write this story. The New York Times: White House Shuns Role on Textile Quotas: By ELIZABETH BECKER. WASHINGTON, June 9 - More than 130 Republican and Democratic members of Congress asked President Bush on Wednesday to persuade the World Trade Organization to delay the phase-out of a global quota system on textiles and garments. The administration swiftly rejected the request, which would mean breaking a 10-year-old global agreement to end the quotas on Jan. 1, 2005. Ending the quotas could lead to a wide-ranging realignment of the industry and spell disaster for textile and apparel industries in dozens of nations, including those in...

Posted by DeLong at 05:46 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

The Economist lends the Bush administration a helping hand: Economist.com: ...a forecast that suggested America's economy would create 2.6m jobs this year. If job creation continues at today's pace, that forecast will prove too low. The claim that the Bush administration forecast was that "America's economy would create 2.6 million jobs this year" was obtained by subtracting the December 2003 employment number--130.1m--from 132.7m. But in the Bush administration forecast, 132.7m was not the forecast of employment in December 2004. The forecast of employment in December 2004 was 134.3m. 132.7m was the forecast of the average level of employment over the year. I realize that the Bush administration worked hard to confuse reporters on what, exactly, their forecast was. But that is only half an excuse. The Economist needs to work harder, and be better....

Posted by DeLong at 11:51 AM

June 10, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? ("Objective Economic Indicators" Edition)

I'm going to go bang my head against the wall again. The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman writes: Jonathan Weisman Strikes Again: [George W.] Bush is not the first president to suffer from a disconnect between objective economic indicators and voter perceptions on the economy. The economy began growing steadily in March 1991, when President George H.W. Bush registered a 49 percent approval rating on his handling of the economy. But by July of 1992, those approval ratings had slid to an abysmal 25 percent, presaging his electoral defeat three months later.... Leave to one side the assumption that "objective economic indicators" are now "good"--the productivity numbers are indeed truly wonderful, but the employment and real wage situation is still lousy, albeit better than it was half a year ago. Focus, instead, on the assertion that during the period between March 1991 and July 1992 there was a "disconnect between objective economic indicators"--good--"and voter perceptions"--bad. But during that period the unemployment rate rose from 6.8% to 7.9%: that's a lot of powerful bad news about "objective economic conditions" in the labor market. You can say a bunch of things about the slide in George H.W. Bush's approval ratings between early 1991...

Posted by DeLong at 12:39 PM

June 09, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Chris Matthews Edition)

Wonkette listens to Chris Matthews on the TV, and loses it and runs screaming into the night: Gipperporn: The Triumph of the Unreal: Just when we thought we wouldn't actually learn anything from all this Reagan coverage, Chris Matthews gives us a real history lesson. Vamping a bit between MSNBC correspondents' interviews of Stepford Republicans, Matthews noted that, thanks to all of Reagan's war movies, "He seemed understand the experience of the Greatest Generation better than the guys who were actually in battle could." Yes, having a buddy bleed to death in your arms can dampen your enthusiasm for a war. But when your toughest wartime assignment is to keep your tan even, you don't really mind threatening to start another one. You see only the unreal is really real, and the real is really unreal, or something like that. Because the unreal is on the screen, and people, like, see it. But there are no cameras where things really happen, and so they're not really real. Or something like that. UPDATE: Wonkette resumes the attack! Let's let someone who, you know, was "actually in combat" take a swing at it. Tomorrow's Time contains this report: Television anchors and commentators...

Posted by DeLong at 08:35 PM

June 08, 2004
Clueless in Hyderabad

One of the big problem with being on the big bus that is the global left is that one occasionally finds oneself seated next to destructive lunatic fools like George Monbiot. Where to begin? By pointing out that those who attend India's universities are, in India, an incredibly rich and privileged class, and that to denounce "privatization" and "user fees" to fund universities is to say that India's poor taxpayers should pay to further enrich India's rich university graduates? By pointing out that the Indian government has huge trouble collecting taxes, and that recouping some hospital fees from those who have money eases pressure on government budgets? By pointing out that India feeds itself, and that a principal task of Indian economic growth is to move workers from low-productivity agriculture to higher-productivity urban occupations, and that to demand that nobody move from the country to the city is to condemn India to poverty forever? Should one point out that the best estimates of poverty trends in India we have--those of Deaton of Princeton and of Sundaram and Tendulkar of Delhi--find a 22% reduction in Indian poverty during the six years from 1993-1994 to 1999-2000, not an increase? And that...

Posted by DeLong at 12:28 PM

June 07, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Mickey Kaus Refutes Milton Friedman Edition)

A correspondent writes: At the end of Mickey Kaus' love note (http://slate.msn.com/id/2101504/) to Reagan is this paragraph: Reagan's 1981 breaking of the air traffic controllers' strike also seems a crucial part of the late-twentieth century boom. Union power was the mainspring of the 1970s wage-price spiral, as unions leapfrogged each other trying to stay a step ahead of the rising prices their hefty wage hikes then helped ensure. The air controllers provided the cautionary example of a labor organization that went on an ill-advised strike, was defeated, and ceased to exist. With the public's support! Big Labor hasn't been the same since--and, not coincidentally, neither has inflation. As a fan of your site, I thought I'd bring it to your attention. Do with it what you will. Thus <sarcasm> crack economist</sarcasm> Mickey Kaus draws on his <sarcasm>deep expertise in monetary economics</sarcasm> to refute Milton Friedman, who argues that inflation is a monetary phenomenon: the result of the central bank's allowing the money stock--the economy's stock of liquid assets--to expand too fast. It is true that in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s you heard some on the right saying that inflation was the fault of Big Labor pushing up wages, and...

Posted by DeLong at 07:07 AM

June 06, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

Max Sawicky is right: this piece in the Washington Post is pathetic and incompetent: MaxSpeak, You Listen!: THIS IS YOUR JOURNALIST ON DRUGS: Possibly the most bizarre thing I will read today, by Glen Kessler in the Post: Reagan's predecessor, Jimmy Carter, may have ushered in deregulation or set in motion a big defense buildup. But it was Reagan who took those policies to heart. Former president Bill Clinton may have declared "the era of big government is over" or finally balanced the budget. But it was Reagan who set those goals and inspired the Republican Congress that worked with Clinton. Reagan also placed tax cuts firmly at the center of the Republican agenda. Before Reagan, Republicans disliked government and abhorred deficits. After Reagan, tax cuts became a crusade that one day would -- maybe, possibly -- lead toward smaller government and the end of deficits. Reagan preached that lower taxes would lead to greater economic growth, a theme that still echoes in the House and the Senate and whenever President Bush steps up to give an economic speech. Reagan set the goal of balancing the budget? The Republicans in Congress were inspired to work with Bill Clinton on balancing...

Posted by DeLong at 09:32 AM

June 04, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Atrios-Can't-Take-It and Howell Raines Edition)

Atrios cannot take it anymore (but then, he never could): Eschaton: One pathology of the elite guardians of our discourse is their tendency to focus on the inane and superficial and then pretend that they're standins for Joe and Jane America. They cover politics like Joan Rivers covering fashion at the Oscars, and then pretend that they're just reflecting the opinion of "the American people." They'll attack candidates (well, Democratic candidates) for not being "serious" about issues and then wonder aloud about the fact that they're boring the people with all those Big Incomprehensible Numbers.... [W]ell educated... from elite schools. I don't know if they're posing or lazy, but I don't believe they're as illiterate and innumerate as they claim. Ted Koppel, who had no trouble counting down the days we had hostages in Iran, professed during the 2000 election that all those numbers Bush and Gore were throwing around were just soooo confusing.... Aside from a bit of education, there isn't really much point in really discussing many policy issues in-depth. This administration obviously isn't interested. And, nor is the 4th estate. They talk hair cuts and sighs, pretending this is what really matters to the Amurcans they have...

Posted by DeLong at 09:34 AM

June 03, 2004
Cleaning Up After the Elephants

Cleaning up after the elephants. It really is a thankless task. Our letter in response to Robert Samuelson's bizarre review of Rubin's memoirs: From the New Republic: UNCALCULATED In his book review, Robert J. Samuelson argues that the nation's central budgetary problem is "federal spending, driven by higher retirement benefits for aging baby-boomers" ("<>What the Boom Forgot," May 3). Samuelson criticizes the Clinton administration for failing to address that problem by scaling back Social Security and Medicare. The projected imbalances in government retirement programs are indeed worrisome, and it is unfortunate that progress was not made in addressing them during the 1990s. But Samuelson does not adequately explain that the critical long-term expenditure problem lies in Medicare and Medicaid--far more so than in Social Security--and he overlooks the role of recent tax cuts in worsening the budget outlook. Over the next 75 years, the cost of Medicare and Medicaid will rise by more than 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), due to an aging population and increases in health care costs. That is more than four times the expected increase in Social Security costs over the same period. The distinction matters because rising Medicare and Medicaid costs are...

Posted by DeLong at 09:14 AM

June 01, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Danny Okrent Goes Apeshit Edition)

New York Times boss Bill Keller says: Delicate Monster: It's a little galling to watch her [Judith Miller] pursued by some of these armchair media ethicists who have never ventured into a war zone or earned the right to carry Judy's laptop. Danny Okrent, New York Times not-the-ombudsman, begins with a concessive opening paragraph bowing to the Local Gods: The New York Times > Week in Review > The Public Editor: Weapons of Mass Destruction? Or Mass Distraction?: To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed, or was acquiring, a frightening arsenal of W.M.D. seemed unmistakable. Except, of course, it appears to have been mistaken.... The results of The Times's own examination.... I think they got it right. Mostly. (I do question the placement: as one reader asked, "Will your column this Sunday address why the NYT buried its editors' note - full of apologies for burying stories on A10 - on A10?").... And Okrent then goes apeshit. I count eight severe criticisms of "Judy" in Okrent's piece, any one of which would get somebody fired from a healthy institution. And it is also Okrent's judgment that it is not...

Posted by DeLong at 10:13 PM

The Media Is Stabbing America in the Back!

And, once again, the only commentator in the whole world who can address the stab-in-the-back legend currently being constructed by the likes of Morton Kondracke and Glenn Reynolds is Fafblog!'s Medium Lobster: Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: Journalists: The next new front in the war against freedom against freedomRecently a few distressed voices in the wilderness have been raised in alarm at the newest, darkest, and most dangerous threat to America's success in the war on terror: the media. Morton Kondracke recently pointed out that the media "is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq. And the results would be catastrophic." He goes on to pin the West's Iraq problems squarely where they belong: on the media's fixation with the Abu Ghraib scandal. How astute, Mr Kondracke! For it was in fact the press's obsession with military torture that allowed the the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies to claim whole cities from the American occupation.But what to do about this pernicious enemy within? Analytical wunderkind and concerned lover of law Glenn Reynolds muses, "Freedom of the press, as it exists today (and didn't exist, really, until the 1960s) is unlikely to survive if a...

Posted by DeLong at 08:43 PM

The Nieman Watchdog

Barry Susman and Dan Froomkin are trying to fix American journalism--to suggest to reporters how they could do more real, useful, informative reporting, rather than a combination of "balanced" "he said-she said" stories that fail to inform and confuse readers mixed with obsequious dreck. It's a Sisyphean task. I wish them well. Discourse.net: Neiman Watchdog Says, "Ask This": Nieman Watchdog is a new web-based project devoted to questions the press should ask. It’s run by Barry Susman, assisted by my brother (who will be doing this in addition to his White House Briefing gig). As you’d expect with anything supported by the Nieman Foundation, it boasts a star-studded (if Ivy-heavy) list of contributors …one of whom I’m happy to see is Brad DeLong. Check out the list of questions the Neiman Watchdog thinks reporters should be asking....

Posted by DeLong at 02:36 PM

May 20, 2004
Jonathan Alter Is Not Among the Shrill

Kevin Drum wonders why Newsweek's Jonathan Alter is so much more critical of Bush on (evanescent) radio than he is in (durable) print. Alter responds: The Washington Monthly: CLOWNS REVISITED....A couple of days ago I took a swipe at Newsweek's Jonathan Alter for not being willing to say in print what he's willing to say on the radio, and today he responds in a piece by Brian Montopoli at The Campaign Desk: Alter disputes the notion that he's too restrained in print. "If I just attacked Bush with a sledgehammer every week in Newsweek it would get pretty predictable, so I vary my pitches," he says. "But lately I've been whacking him pretty good. I haven't done it that explicitly, but I've certainly done it and expect to do it some more." He acknowledges, however, that different mediums force journalists to play different roles -- and that he takes a different approach in Newsweek than he does on a liberal radio show. I don't have anything against Alter, whose writing I generally like, and as I mentioned in comments, "I accept that you don't persuade the readers of a national magazine by sounding like a derelict at Speaker's Corner in...

Posted by DeLong at 06:58 PM

May 15, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Economist "Lexington" Edition)

The Economist's Lexington column is embarrassing. Seeking to argue that the Bush administration has at last found a powerful and attractive economic policy vision, the column begins: Economist.com | Lexington: Listen to Mr Bush himself, or particularly to any of his underwhelming officials, and the [economic] message seems simple, narrow and much the same as it has been for the past four years: tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. In the 2000 campaign Mr Bush claimed tax cuts were necessary to stop Congress frittering away the surplus. As the economy faltered, he claimed they were necessary to stimulate it. Now he argues that tax cuts delivered the recovery and must be made permanent (they are due to expire by the end of 2010). Though Mr Bush's stump speeches pay lip-service to other priorities—such as the need to control health-care costs or curb frivolous lawsuits—they are worryingly one-dimensional. But, Lexington hastens to say, what Bush says, thinks, and does--what the Bush administration officials say, think, and do--does not matter. What matters is: ...the cleverer Republicans around the Bush-Cheney campaign... a much more comprehensive agenda exists. It centres on equipping Americans to compete in the global economy by reducing tax, trade, legal...

Posted by DeLong at 10:13 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Christopher Caldwell Edition)

Is Christopher Caldwell really so stupid as not to know that Zarqawi's Iraq operation--Ansar al-Islam--was based in that part of Iraq that Saddam Hussein did not control, and that this "link" between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is as vaporous as all the rest? Are the editors and the columnists of the Financial Times unaware of their duty to their readers to make sure that what is published in their pages bears some passing acquaintance with the truth? Christotopher Caldwell: ...the identification by the CIA of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the terrorist mastermind, as the man who carried out the decapitation. Mr al-Zarqawi provides the strongest link between Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan (where he operated a chemical weapons training camp) and Saddam Hussein's Iraq (where Mr bin Laden was allowed free passage and advanced medical treatment). That is, Mr Berg's beheading restored the link in the public mind between al-Qaeda and Iraq that was part of the justification for the war in the first place. Even if that link is more thematic than concrete, Roy Blunt, the Republican congressman from Missouri, was right to say that "it jolted everybody's memory about why we were there in Iraq and who...

Posted by DeLong at 09:47 AM

May 14, 2004
The Eleven-Year-Old Is Disturbed

Dad? Yes? I'm disturbed. Why? It's this guy Thomas Friedman. I read all the columns--I want to give everybody a chance. But when I read his columns it's, like, I think: "I pity the poor fool." So often his columns are: "Bush is strong! God bless America! We are winning the war on terror!" I know what you mean. But this morning things are different. It's, like, he's opened his eyes and seen reality for the first time. It's not natural. It's very disturbing disturbing: Thomas Friedman: Dancing Alone: I admit, I'm a little slow. Because I tried to think about something as deadly serious as Iraq, and the post- 9/11 world, in a nonpartisan fashion — as Joe Biden, John McCain and Dick Lugar did — I assumed the Bush officials were doing the same. I was wrong. They were always so slow to change course because confronting their mistakes didn't just involve confronting reality, but their own politics. Why, in the face of rampant looting in the war's aftermath, which dug us into such a deep and costly hole, wouldn't Mr. Rumsfeld put more troops into Iraq?... Why, in the face of the Abu Ghraib travesty, wouldn't the...

Posted by DeLong at 09:18 AM

May 13, 2004
Hesiod Is Skeptical of Passages in Woodward's Book

Hesiod is skeptical of certain passages in Bob Woodward's book, Plan of Attack: Counterspin Central: The unofficial "FIRST AMENDMENT ZONE.": WANNA BUY THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE? I laughed out loud when I read this: With some fanfare, McLaughlin stepped up to brief with a series of flip charts. This was the rough cut, he indicated, still highly classified and not cleared for public release. The CIA wanted to reserve on what would be revealed to protect sources and detection methods if there was no military conflict. When McLaughlin concluded, there was a look on the president's face of, What's this? And then a brief moment of silence. "Nice try," Bush said. "I don't think this is quite -- it's not something that Joe Public would understand or would gain a lot of confidence from." Card was also underwhelmed. The presentation was a flop. In terms of marketing, the examples didn't work, the charts didn't work, the photos were not gripping, the intercepts were less than compelling. Bush turned to Tenet. "I've been told all this intelligence about having WMD and this is the best we've got?" From the end of one of the couches in the Oval Office, Tenet rose...

Posted by DeLong at 10:32 AM

Matthew Yglesias Mistakes the Nature of Reality

Matthew Yglesias is annoyed with James Hoagland: Matthew Yglesias: May 09, 2004 - May 15, 2004 Archives: Atrios agrees with Jim Hoagland. But actually he raises a good point, less about Rumsfeld than about Hoagland. His columns often have this veneer of reasonableness about them, but they're written in a sort of obscurantist code that's comprehensible only to those of us who follow both his writing and the Iraq debate very closely. Thus, he can write a column which is ostensibly about the need for the US and UN to stop trying to impose a political agenda on Iraqi and leave things up to domestic politics while it's actually about the need for the US to do more to put Ahmed Chalabi in charge. Matthew (and Atrios) are correct: the esoteric meaning of Hoagland's columns is often very different from the exoteric meaning--and it is reasonably clear to me that Hoagland believes in the esoteric meanings that are, as Matthew puts it, hidden under "this veneer of reasonableness." But where does Matthew get off saying that the unreasonable esoteric meaning is what the column is "actually about"? 99 out of 100 readers don't get the unreasonable esoteric meaning; what they...

Posted by DeLong at 09:29 AM

May 07, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Donald Rumsfeld Edition)

Michael Froomkin asks why he doesn't see things like this in his daily newspaper: Whiskey Bar: Donald Rumsfeld's Battle With The Truth: Donald Rumsfeld's Battle With The Truth "Beyond abuse of prisoners, there are other photos that depict incidents of physical violence toward prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman."Donald RumsfeldTestimony to the Senate Armed Services CommitteeMay 7, 2004 "I'm not a lawyer. My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture … I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."Donald RumsfeldPress BriefingMay 4, 2004 ________________ "Let me be clear: I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the president and the members of Congress."Donald RumsfeldTestimony to the Senate Armed Services CommitteeMay 7, 2004 According to eye witnesses to debate at the highest levels of the Administration. ... whenever Powell or Armitage sought to question prisoner treatment issues, they were forced to...

Posted by DeLong at 08:11 AM

May 06, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Soft Coverage Edition)

I'm going to try to turn the "Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?" over to Michael Froomkin. He's better at it than I am. (And I'm losing so many brain cells from banging my head against the wall to endanger my research productivity.) Discourse.net: NYT Says $25 Billion Iraq Supplemental is no Big Deal: Which is a better, fuller, explanation of the state of play? Is it the account offerd by Notes on the Atrocities: Nickel and Diming February. Bush’s budget comes out with no additional request for funds for Iraq. Monday. A senior administration official says there’s no “resource problem in Iraq.” Today. WASHINGTON (AP) — The Bush administration asked Congress Wednesday for an additional $25 billion for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, congressional Republicans said, a retreat from the White House’s earlier plans not to seek such money until after the November elections…. It seemed likely that the $25 billion proposal would be only the first portion of funds that will be needed for next year. Or is it the account (on page A15!!!) of the New York Times, White House Asks G.O.P. in Congress to Add $25 Billion which begins with the...

Posted by DeLong at 06:59 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Dingbat Kabuki Edition)

Michael Froomkin is, in his current addled state, confused: Discourse.net: Privately?: In my current addled state, I’m having a little trouble understanding headlines like Bush Privately Chides Rumsfeld. Erum. “Privately”? Like on the front page of every newspaper on earth? Yes, I understand it’s off-camera, but is that what “privately” means now? Michael is pretending that he does not understand that he is watching Washington Post reporters Robin Wright and Bradley Graham play a game of Dingbat Kabuki with the "senior administration official" who tells them that "Bush privately chides Rumsfeld." We have no idea whether Bush privately chid Rumsfeld or not. We do know that David Stockman swears that a previous "president chid cabinet member" story--when Reagan supposedly took Stockman "to the woodshed" was a lie, a made up fantasy, a story created because Reagan White House Chief of Staff James Baker thought it would be helpful. So all we know is that the "senior administration official" wants Wright and Graham to tell the world that "Bush privately chid Rumsfeld." It may be true. It may be false. But, of course, Wright and Graham don't begin their story with: "Bush aide spreads story that Bush has privately chid Rumsfeld"--which...

Posted by DeLong at 06:55 PM

Tom Friedman Alert

Needlenose has a "pigs with wings" reaction to a Tom Friedman column: COMMENTS: Bad news for the administration: now they've really lost the support of NYTimes columnist Thomas ("I like the war but my wife doesn't") Friedman. The good news? The Peyote seems to be kicking in: Mr. Bush needs to invite to Camp David the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the heads of both NATO and the U.N., and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. There, he needs to eat crow, apologize for his mistakes and make clear that he is turning a new page. Second, he needs to explain that we are losing in Iraq, and if we continue to lose the U.S. public will eventually demand that we quit Iraq, and it will then become Afghanistan-on-steroids, which will threaten everyone. Third, he needs to say he will be guided by the U.N. in forming the new caretaker government in Baghdad. And fourth, he needs to explain that he is ready to listen to everyone's ideas about how to expand our force in Iraq, and have it work under a new U.N. mandate, so it will have the legitimacy it needs to...

Posted by DeLong at 04:59 PM

May 05, 2004
*Sigh* Employment Forecasts Once Again

Oh God! Do I have to? Gary Farber and Bruce Bartlett have been asking for my reaction to Kevin Hassett's claim that Bush Council of Economic Advisers employment forecasts have AEI - News & Commentary: met current professional standards. Indeed, economists who forecast job creation have just about all made the same mistakes as the council. For the past two years, job creation has been well behind the level we might normally have expected to see given the level of economic growth. For example, the highly regarded industry forecaster Macroeconomic Advisers kindly provided me with its jobs forecasts... [which are], of course, stunningly similar to the [CEA's forecasts]. Clearly, the errors are not a sign of corruption, but rather, an indication that the world surprises all economists from time to time. Those surprises challenge us to build better models. If a graduate student presented a seminar attempting to establish bias... he would immediately be shot down by professionals who would see through the subterfuge. If he submitted his analysis to a peer-reviewed journal, it would be rejected. But in the new media culture, [Paul] Krugman can insert into the public debate blatantly misleading content and the vilest accusations without suffering...

Posted by DeLong at 10:17 PM

May 04, 2004
Value Subtracting Enterprises

Via Edward of Obsidian Wings. Instapundit writes: Obsidian Wings: Promised II: A gentler, kinder North Korea: North Korea caves: North Korea, probably the world's most secretive and isolated nation, has offered an olive branch to the US by promising never to sell nuclear materials to terrorists, calling for Washington's friendship and saying it does not want to suffer the fate of Iraq. The dilemma here for the pundits will be whether to laud this as more proof of the effectiveness of Bush's overall effort in the war on terror (see: Libya) or stick with the "you can't trust the North Koreans" line that frequently meets diplomatic proposals to get rid of their nukes. But then Edward has this update: UPDATE: Via Constant Reader Fabius. [Kevin] Drum does what clearly I should have and clicks through the Instapundit link: Mr Kim rejected the notion that North Korea would never give up nuclear weapons. He argued that Pyongyang — branded by Mr Bush as part of the "axis of evil" — was developing nuclear weapons purely to deter a US attack. "We don't want to suffer the fate of Iraq," he told Mr Harrison. ....Mr Kim told Mr Harrison he thought Mr...

Posted by DeLong at 03:50 PM

Note: George Will

Explananda has a Shorter George Will: "Somehow racially loaded smears from Republicans seem less funny when I'm a potential target."...

Posted by DeLong at 11:02 AM

April 29, 2004
Robert Samuelson Tries to Trash the Clinton Administration's Economic Policies

The New Republic (for incomprehensible reasons) invites Robert Samuelson to trash Bob Rubin and the Clinton administration's economic policies: The New Republic Online: What the Boom Forgot (1 of 3): In hindsight, though, Rubin's accomplishments seem less grand. The economic expansion of the early 1990s would have occurred even if he had not joined the Clinton administration in 1993, initially as head of the White House's National Economic Council. Similarly, the emergence of a budget surplus in 1998--the first since 1969--stemmed mainly from outside events: the end of the Cold War, which prompted a large (and probably excessive) reduction in defense spending; and the economic boom, which caused a huge and unanticipated surge in tax revenue. Good luck, more than good policy, produced the surpluses.... The man who emerges from these pages... didn't have then--and, based on this book, doesn't have now--many original economic ideas beyond the bland standbys of curbing budget deficits at home and promoting free trade and free markets abroad... And it's at this point that I stopped reading for a while. Curbing budget deficits at home is not a "bland standby" but an essential prerequisite for a healthy economy. Free trade and free markets abroad are...

Posted by DeLong at 10:35 PM

April 24, 2004
High-Quality Corrections

Julian Sanchez is happy with the high quality of New York Times corrections these days: Julian's Lounge: Notes from the Lounge: Radley Balko notes this hilarious correction slated for tomorrow's New York Times:Yesterday, the Times identified a man on page A21 as a Ku Klux Klan member found guilty of murdering a black sharecropper. Actually, the man was Pete Coors, head of Coors Brewing Company, and a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. Coors is not in the Ku Klux Klan, and did not murder a black sharecropper. The Times regrets the error.However, for personal reasons, I want to award the title of "best correction ever" to this one, found by Samizdata's Alex Singleton:In our report, Life after Living Marxism, page 10, July 8, we referred to the Reason Foundation and said its "leading writer, the syndicated columnist Sandra Postrel, is author of the libertarian book The Enemies Of Freedom and frequently talks at the Hudson Institute". The Reason Foundation points out that no one of that name works at the Foundation or for Reason Magazine. The editor-at-large and former editor of the magazine is called Virginia Postrel. She is a columnist for Forbes and the New York Times but...

Posted by DeLong at 03:44 PM

April 18, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special New York Times/Adam Liptak Edition)

A very strange article in the New York Times by Adam Liptak this morning. The fact pattern appears to be as follows: Prominent Mississippi family sues prominent Canadian family in contract dispute: Nafta Tribunals Stir U.S. Worries: The Mississippi case arose from an exchange of companies between a Canadian concern, the Loewen Group, and companies owned by a Mississippi family, the O'Keefes. The O'Keefe family, contending that the Loewen Group did not live up to its obligations, sued for breach of contract and fraud. The Mississippi courts take a serious dive and put their whole body on the scale on the side of the O'Keefes: "The whole trial and its resultant verdict... were clearly improper and discreditable and cannot be squared with minimum standards of international law and equitable treatment." Although the tribunal found that the businesses were worth no more than $8 million, a jury in Jackson, Miss., awarded the family $500 million in 1995. Loewen settled the case the next year, for $175 million.... [T]he [NAFTA] tribunal called the Mississippi trial "a disgrace" and "the antithesis of due process" .... [T]he tribunal had faulted Judge James E. Graves Jr. of Circuit Court in Jackson for allowing lawyers for...

Posted by DeLong at 09:47 AM

April 15, 2004
Drum Wonders About Easterbrook

Kevin Drum asks why Gregg Easterbrook has run off the rails and crashed into a ditch: The Washington Monthly: THE BUSH AIR QUALITY RECORD....Can someone please tell me why Gregg Easterbrook continues to claim that the Bush administration is dedicated to improving air quality? His writing on the subject has gotten pathological.Today, he first makes a claim he's made repeatedly before:But then again, Bush has already imposed much stricter antipollution standards for diesel fuel and diesel engines...and the media simply pretend these advances don't exist, in order to sustain the preferred script of Bush "undoing" clean-air policy.But as Easterbrook must well know, these "stricter antipollution standards for diesel fuel and diesel engines" were implemented by the Clinton administration. Bush's only contribution was that he didn't overturn them.Today's news, which he calls "yet another clean-air achievement for the Bush administration," is that the EPA has finally released a list of counties that are out of compliance with new, stricter, air quality regulations. But once again, as even Easterbrook admits, the regulations themselves were written by the Clinton administration. Bush's only contribution was that he didn't overturn them.Easterbrook is right that air quality has been getting better for the past 30 years,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:18 PM

April 09, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Richard Clarke is Apeshit for Two Reasons Edition)

Bob Somerby is a very unhappy camper:THE KRAUTHAMMER SCRIPT: Meanwhile, Krauthammer’s script just keeps spreading (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/2/04). This morning, the Post misleads its readers in the new standard way for the third time in the past seven days. Robert Samuelson does the honors, reciting the script in his op-ed column: SAMUELSON: Even if Bush had heeded [Richard] Clarke, it wouldn’t have made much difference. His proposal included more aid to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and more missions for Predator drones over Afghanistan. If his plan had been adopted, was "there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?" asked former senator Slade Gorton, a member of the Sept. 11 commission. "No," said Clarke. The Sept. 11 conspirators were already here; the FBI hadn’t detected the plot. Experience since Sept. 11 confirms that greater vigilance and aggressiveness don’t always suffice. Osama bin Laden remains at large. Heightened intelligence didn't avert the Madrid bombings. Clearly, the Post doesn't want you to know what Clarke has said. Could 9/11 have been averted? We don't have the slightest idea. But Clarke has said two things on the subject, as Samuelson and his editor, Fred Hiatt, both know: 1. He has...

Posted by DeLong at 10:36 AM

April 06, 2004
Voting for Terrorists

Andrew Sullivan claims that a vote against George W. Bush is a vote for the terrorists: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: Here's a quote from a Sadr relative that speaks volumes: "We may be unable to drive the Americans out of Iraq. But we can drive George W. Bush out of the White House." The violence in Iraq is designed to exert pressure indirectly by leveraging opposition to the war in the U.S. and Britain. The sadr-masochists know they cannot overwhelm the coalition militarily, so they need to destroy its morale at home, as well as create constant instability in Iraq.Fafnir from Fafblog deals with this claim at an appropriate level: Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: The Fafblog Terrorist Voting GuideLately I have heard a lot of talk about voting for terrorists. It is apparently the hot new craze sweeping western democracies these days, who knew! Did you know that if the election were held today, the majority of Americans would vote for terrorists? It's true! But this got me thinking which sometimes happens. What kind of terrorists are Americans voting for? Informed voters are responsible voters, but who is informing voters about the policy positions of various...

Posted by DeLong at 07:40 AM

April 03, 2004
David Broder Doesn't Like George W. Bush Anymore

It seems that David Broder doesn't like George W. Bush anymore: Bush's Surrender (washingtonpost.com): When President Bush appeared momentarily on Tuesday afternoon in the White House briefing room, he came to announce a surrender. After weeks of resistance, he had capitulated to the growing political pressure for national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to give the bipartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11 tragedy her sworn public testimony. Bush's surrender came nine days after his former top counterterrorism aide, Richard Clarke, had fired a missile into the heart of Bush's proudest boast -- and the main plank of his reelection campaign -- by charging the president with indifference to the threat of terrorism before Sept. 11. For nine days the White House and its allies did everything in their power to discredit Clarke, while trying to shield his old boss, Rice, from the commission's unanimous request that she give sworn public testimony in response to Clarke's stunning indictment. When the effort to shoot the messenger failed to halt the political erosion, Bush did what he never should have done: He threw Rice to the commission. And, worse, he failed to do what he could have done long before: Offer the American...

Posted by DeLong at 04:33 PM

March 25, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special Richard Cheney "Opinions About Shape of Earth Differ" Issue)

Paul Krugman said somewhere that if a Bush administration official were to claim that the Earth was flat, the newspaper headlines the next day would read "Opinions About Shape of Earth Differ." Today Elizabeth Bumiller of the New York Times shows that he was right. Richard Cheney on Monday came out with a lie--that the NSC Senior Director for Counterterrorism in 2001, Richard Clarke, was "out of the loop" on counterterrorism policy--so big that Condi Rice decides that she simply can't back it up, and contradicts him at her briefing yesterday. After all, whenever the George W. Bush administration has claimed it had its eye on the ball on terrorism before September 11, 2001, it does so by pointing either to the work Clarke was doing in 2001 or to its decision to keep Clarke as point man on counterterrorism at the NSC. But what is the headline the New York Times runs: "A Dispute: Was an Official 'in the Loop'? It All Depends"--i.e., "Opinions on Shape of Earth Differ." And what is the tone of her article? A simple "she (Rice) said, he (Cheney) said": one-against-one, with no clues as to who is more credible. A Dispute: Was an...

Posted by DeLong at 09:48 AM

March 24, 2004
William Saletan Has the Wool Pulled Over His Eyes by the Bush Administration (Don't These People Read Against All Enemies? Department)

William Saletan has the wool pulled over his eyes by the Bush administration: Fatal in Difference - Bush's catastrophic allergy to Clinton. By William Saletan: [The administration claims] "The very first major policy directive of this administration was to develop a comprehensive strategy to eliminate al-Qaida—not roll it back, as some had previously called for, but to eliminate al-Qaida. … [Clarke] was talking about rolling back al-Qaida. We were focused on eliminating al-Qaida. … We didn't feel it was sufficient to simply roll back al-Qaida. We pursued a policy to eliminate al-Qaida."... Notice what these... statements dismiss: Law enforcement. Pinpricks. Rolling it back. Swatting flies. That was why Clarke couldn't get a hearing. His ideas were too partial, too ad hoc, too Clintonesque. Bush wanted a bigger approach: Comprehensive. Strategy. Eliminate. Different. His "comprehensive strategy" was delivered on Sept. 4, 2001. Is the White House embarrassed that it spent those six months studying the "many complex issues involved in the development of the comprehensive strategy" instead of swatting the "flies" that would kill 3,000 Americans a week later? No. It's proud. But William Saletan clearly doesn't know two things: The "comprehensive strategy" to "eliminate" Al Qaeda presented to the Bush...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 AM

March 23, 2004
The Decembrist on Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage

The Decembrist--Mark Schmtt--rants about the Medicare prescription drug bill. "Where's the money going?" he asks. His answer: "Drug companies, insurance companies, and the bribes to employers to maintain coverage." It is very sad: it's hard to avoid thinking that if we in the Clinton administration had had $540 billion to spend on prescription drug coverage over the next ten years, we could have gotten the public much more for their money. The Decembrist: The Verdict is in on Medicare: If you remember how obsessed I was with the Medicare bill last fall (back when no one read this blog, and most people who looked at it ran away because all I ever seemed to write about was M-E-D-I-C-A-R-E over and over again), guess how much I am enjoying the latest events? Answer: a lot. Not only did Tom Scully of CMS (the sub-agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid) threaten to fire his agency's actuary, whose independence had been written into law by a Republican Congress, if he revealed the real cost of the bill, it now turns out that Doug Badger of the White House -- the purest of hacks -- may have pressured Scully as well. Conning the American...

Posted by DeLong at 12:07 PM

March 22, 2004
The Republican Slime Machine Oozes Across the Countryside

From the Center for American Progress, via Atrios:CLAIM #1: "Richard Clarke had plenty of opportunities to tell us in the administration that he thought the war on terrorism was moving in the wrong direction and he chose not to." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04FACT: Clarke sent a memo to Rice principals on 1/24/01 marked "urgent" asking for a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with an impending Al Qaeda attack. The White House acknowledges this, but says "principals did not need to have a formal meeting to discuss the threat." No meeting occurred until one week before 9/11. - White House Press Release, 3/21/04CLAIM #2: "The president returned to the White House and called me in and said, I've learned from George Tenet that there is no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 3/22/04FACT: If this is true, then why did the President and Vice President repeatedly claim Saddam Hussein was directly connected to 9/11? President Bush sent a letter to Congress on 3/19/03 saying that the Iraq war was permitted specifically under legislation that authorized force against "nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks...

Posted by DeLong at 05:27 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (End of Textile Quotas Edition)

In an extraordinary lapse of judgment, the Wall Street Journal's news pages pretend that we do not know whether the end of textile export quotas will put upward or downward pressure on garment prices in the U.S.: WSJ.com - Apparel's Loose Thread: With End of Trade Quotas, Will Clothes Cost More, Less? One Safe Bet: China Will Gain: ...Mr. Yau, a middleman who buys clothes directly for Retail Brand Alliance Inc.'s Casual Corner and Brooks Brothers stores, among other company brands, believes some of the merchandise he buys will be cheaper next year. That's when decades-old quotas governing the world garment trade are set to expire. Others, though say prices consumers pay for clothes may not fall, and even could rise temporarily. Either way, the removal of the quota system is likely to reverberate across the garment industry world-wide for some time to come, causing big shifts in how multinational clothing companies do business and sell clothes to shoppers.... The quota system was created in the 1960s by developed countries including the U.S. and those in the European Union to protect their own textile manufacturers from cheap foreign competitors. In the U.S., the government sets strict limits on the...

Posted by DeLong at 10:42 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Judith Miller Edition)

The New York Times takes another dive: its editors assign Judith Miller to write a piece about Richard Clarke's book and Sixty Minutes interview, and she does exactly what one would expect a reporter enthralled by the Bush administration to do. As Joshua Micah Marshall puts it: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 21, 2004 - March 27, 2004 Archives: Paging Dr. Okrent, paging Dr. Okrent ... We noted last night the odd and (I think now) clearly regrettable decision to have Judith Miller write the Times piece on Richard Clarke. (For general background on her inappropriateness to report this piece see this piece by Jack Shafer.) The first point to notice is that in an article purportedly about Clarke's accusations, she provides one sentence describing his claims, with no direct quotes, before moving onto two paragraphs with direct quotes from White House Communications Director attacking Clarke. Also note that she describes Clarke's claims thusly, that he "asserts that while neither president did enough to prevent the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has undermined American national security by using the 9/11 attacks for political advantage and ignoring the threat of Al Qaeda in order to...

Posted by DeLong at 10:29 AM

March 11, 2004
Pay No Attention to the Out-of-the-Labor-Force People Behind the Curtain (Yet More Misdirection From National Review Department)

Since June 2003, the household survey estimate of the number of working age Americans has grown by 1.53 million.* During that same period, the household survey estimate of employment has grown by 700 thousand. In order for the employment-to-population ratio to remain constant, a 1.53 million increase in the working-age population needs to be accompanied by an 950,000 increase in employment. According to the household survey, we are 250,000 short since last June at what we need to maintain the ratio of employed Americans to the working age population. For those extra 250,000 (according to the household survey), the past nine months' labor market news has not been good.However, writing for National Review, Jerry Bowyer claims: "last May President Bush fully implemented his tax cut, and since then the rate has rapidly dropped from 6.3 percent down to 5.6 percent, one of the quickest drops in history. That's great news, of course, for unemployed worker 5.61 through unemployed worker 6.30..."Bowyer implies--Bowyer probably thinks--that unemployed worker 5.61 through unemployed worker 6.30 are now happy because they have found jobs, and that things are not worse but much better than they were last June. But they haven't: the employment-to-population ratio has fallen,...

Posted by DeLong at 06:19 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special "Why Don't They Read Their Own Paper?", "Why Can't They Count?", and Jonathan Weisman Edition)

In this morning's Washington Post, beneath Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman's byline, I read: Bush Choice for Manufacturing Post in Question (washingtonpost.com): In late afternoon, the administration announced that the new assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services would be named at a ceremony this morning. Industry officials were told that the job would go to Anthony F. Raimondo, chairman and chief executive of a Nebraska company that makes metal buildings and grain silos... But last September 4 the Washington Post's Al Kamen reported: Not So 'New' After All (washingtonpost.com): President Bush announced Monday that he is creating a new position of manufacturing czar, otherwise known as the assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services, to focus on boosting the faltering manufacturing sector. Turns out this is not really so new, congressional and Commerce Department folks say. The existing post of assistant commerce secretary for trade development will get the new name, along with some new functions.... "I guess we can't say the new manufacturing initiative has created at least one new job after all," a Senate Republican aide quipped to our colleague Jonathan Weisman. And the change apparently was not Bush's idea. It was mandated in the...

Posted by DeLong at 10:06 AM

March 09, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (George W. Bush National Guard Discharge Records Edition)

Why isn't it news that George W. Bush continues to break his promise to Tim Russert to release all his military records? Discourse.net: Scandal Fatigue?: Remember how GW Bush promised to release all his military records? And then remember how that promise was inoperative the very next day? We still have seen Bush’s discharge papers. All it would take to put this to rest is a signed release by the ex-National Guardsman himself. But he hasn’t done that…and people seem to have stopped demanding it. Why is that? Lest we forget: Bush To Make Up Missed National Guard Service This Weekend...

Posted by DeLong at 11:14 AM

March 08, 2004
Why Oh Why Don't We Have a Better Press Corps? (CNN Misrepresents Its Own Poll Edition)

Joshua Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall as he encounters the right-wing bias of the American press once again: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 07, 2004 - March 13, 2004 Archives: At what point do you bend over backwards so far that you just fall on your face? We've been talking this evening about a new CNN/USAToday Gallup poll that shows John Kerry beating President Bush by 6% points among likely voters in a three man race (with Nader) and 8% points in a two way race (without Nader). Now, as of 10:30 PM on the east coast, if you go to the CNN website, on the front page you'll find the palpably ridiculous headline: "Poll: Mixed news for presidential candidates". I mean, who came up with that headline? With all the obvious caveats that polls eight months before an election don't necessarily tell you much about election day, there's no getting around the fact that this is a good poll for John Kerry and a pretty bad one for the president......

Posted by DeLong at 08:44 PM

Larry Kudlow Lies Again (Why Does Anybody Read National Review Class?)

Ah. Larry Kudlow lies again at National Review: Larry Kudlow on Jobs & Economy on NRO Financial: There continues to be much debate and confusion about the importance of this household survey, from which the unemployment rate is determined, and the corporate payroll survey, which is rising but at a slower-than-hoped-for pace. Economists have traditionally focused on the unemployment rate as a measure of economic health. But in this political season the softer payroll survey has received the lion's share of coverage. Virtually no one cites the increase in the entrepreneurial army of self-employed and independent contractors who have gone to work at lower tax rates, enabling them to keep more of what they earn. This is why the unemployment rate quickly fell from 6.3 percent when the Bush tax cuts were implemented last spring to 5.6 percent today. The media is trying to discredit this drop as it is scored in the more promising household survey, rather than the more pessimistic payroll tally. Let me see... June, 2003 household survey estimate of self-employed workers: 9,258,000... February 2004 estimate of self-employed workers: 9,498,000... Difference... 240,000... Difference as a percentage of the labor force: 0.17%... Fall in unemployment rate: 0.7%--four times...

Posted by DeLong at 03:52 PM

Excessive "Politeness" to George W. Bush

Staff Reporters of the Wall Street Journal James Hagerty and Jon Hilsenrath seem to me to be excessively polite to George W. Bush: WSJ.com - Job Growth Falls Short of Estimates: ...In a report described by one government economist as a "limp handshake," the Labor Department said Friday that just 21,000 payroll jobs were created in February; economists had expected about 125,000. The unemployment rate remained at 5.6%, but that was because more Americans dropped out of the labor market, many deciding that job hunting was a waste of time. Unless job creation picks up within the next few months, consumers may grow more jittery, as they watch friends and neighbors struggle to find work. That, in turn, could prompt Americans to slow spending, warned Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo & Co. "The risk of economic slowdown has clearly increased," he said. The positive news in Friday's report was that it underlined continued improvements in productivity as companies find ways to raise output without expanding their work forces. While painful for many workers, these productivity gains have helped boost corporate profits and held down interest rates. In another positive development, job losses in manufacturing are slowing. Factories...

Posted by DeLong at 09:30 AM

March 06, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (New York Times Headline Edition)

A headline from the New York Times: Job Data Provides Ammunition for Two Sides in Presidential Race And, of course, the headline is a false description of the article. Nowhere in the article is there any hint that recent jobs data has provided George W. Bush's side with any ammunition....

Posted by DeLong at 08:40 AM

March 03, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special David Brooks Edition)

I often think that the op-ed format is an abomination--and one much worse than the eating of shellfish. 700 words is a lousy format. And I think the New York Times is among the worst: twice a week is a lousy frequency. I'm convinced that if the New York Times gave Paul Krugman 2,000-3,000 words twice a month, they'd get (and we'd get) works of true brilliance, and much better value. Now comes the Decembrist to agree with me about the format, and to say that David Brooks would be better at a different length and frequency on the New York Times op-ed page. His preference? 0 words 0 times a month. I agree: The Decembrist: The Poverty of David Brooks: David Brooks' shtick since coming to the New York Times got old fast, but now it's disgraceful. As a Weekly Standard writer, he at least showed some imagination and a range of interests, but on the op-ed page -- which for many people is the one and only opinionated/analytical thing they regularly read -- he has fallen back on hackwork that wouldn't cut it on National Review Online. All the hallmarks of Brooks' style were in play yesterday, particularly...

Posted by DeLong at 10:36 PM

March 02, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special "Is Andrew Sullivan Really This Stupid?" Edition)

Is Andrew Sullivan really this stupid? Or is he just pretending? He claims to find two dueling, contradictory quotes in today's New York Times: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: "Although the rest of the government is running huge deficits — and never did run much of a surplus — the Social Security system is currently taking in much more money than it spends. Thanks to those surpluses, the program is fully financed at least through 2042. The cost of securing the program's future for many decades after that would be modest — a small fraction of the revenue that will be lost if the Bush tax cuts are made permanent." - Paul Krugman, New York Times, today. "When Alan Greenspan urged Congress last week to cut future benefits in Social Security and Medicare, sending elected officials to the barricades, he was if anything understating the magnitude of the problems ahead. Today's budget deficits are measured in the hundreds of billions, but the looming shortfalls for the two retirement programs are projected to be in the tens of trillions of dollars." - Edmund L. Andrews, New York Times today. But Andrews is right: today's deficits are measured in the hundreds of billions....

Posted by DeLong at 11:25 AM

February 27, 2004
The Republican Slime Machine Oozes Forward

Fred Kaplan observes the Republican Slime Machine oozing forward: John Kerry's Defense Defense - Setting his voting record straight. By Fred Kaplan: Before George W. Bush's political operatives started pounding on John Kerry for voting against certain weapons systems during his years in the Senate, they should have taken a look at this quotation:After completing 20 planes for which we have begun procurement, we will shut down further production of the B-2 bomber. We will cancel the small ICBM program. We will cease production of new warheads for our sea-based ballistic missiles. We will stop all new production of the Peacekeeper [MX] missile. And we will not purchase any more advanced cruise missiles.... The reductions I have approved will save us an additional $50 billion over the next five years. By 1997 we will have cut defense by 30 percent since I took office.The speaker was President George H.W. Bush, the current president's father, in his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, 1992. They should also have looked up some testimony by Dick Cheney, the first President Bush's secretary of defense (and now vice president), three days later, boasting of similar slashings before the Senate Armed Services Committee:Overall,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:38 AM

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Liars?

Michael Froomkin bangs his head against the wall as he contemplates the White House's excursion into "Dingbat Kabuki"--its earnest claim that George W. Bush wants to extend the life of the 911 commission but that Dennis Hastert won't let him: Discourse.net: Dingbat Kabuki: Joshua Marshall has a way not just with ideas but with words. What better phrase than “dingbat kabuki” to describe the bizarre and transparently fraudulent claim that House Republicans are rebelling against GW Bush’s earnest and assertive request to extend the life of the 9/11 commission?The White House’s suggestion that Andrew Card’s personal appeal to Speaker Hastert to make good on Bush’s pledge to deliver an extra 60 days for the commission fell on deaf ears would be funny if the issues — the extent to which 9/11 was preventable, and what we can learn from the failure to prevent it — were not so serious.So now I have two questions. First, which one of these three scenarios is at work:Karl Rove and Dick Cheney never planned to extend the 9/11 Commission’s mandate past May, and Bush’s pledge was a lie when uttered.Rove & Cheney did plan to extend the 9/11 Commission, but then backed off due...

Posted by DeLong at 09:37 AM

February 26, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special Robert Samuelson Edition)

Robert Samuelson was a real journalist once. But I see little evidence of that these days: A Phony Jobs Debate (washingtonpost.com): Facing a weak economy, a government can do three things: cut interest rates; run a budget deficit; and allow -- or cause -- its currency to depreciate. The first two promote borrowing and spending; the last makes a country's exports cheaper and its imports costlier. All these weapons have been deployed. Bush's policies are mostly standard economics; based on past patterns, these policies should have produced stronger job growth. Did Robert Samuelson completely miss the fact that the effect of the 2003 (and 2001) Bush tax cuts was to enlarge the budget deficit in a relatively un-job creating way? It is as if they were designed to reduce national savings as much as possible in the long run while providing little short-run boost to demand. Was he asleep all of last winter when this debate was held--and when the Bush administration falsely asserted that its dividend tax cut was a powerful short-run stimulus to employment? As best as we can track the thinking of the Bush administration, they decided to claim that large tax cuts for the $300,000+ a...

Posted by DeLong at 12:30 AM

February 23, 2004
New York Times Reporter Ed Andrews Explains His Thinking

In an email that crossed my desk, New York Times reporter Edmund Andrews explains why he reported (incorrectly) that the Bush administration forecast was that 2.6 million payroll jobs would be created this year: MY editors forwarded your note to me, complaining about how I depicted the Bush projections for job creation that were in the economic report to the president. I understand the criticism, and Brad Delong isprobably right that the real projection implies average monthly job creation of more than 300,000 jobs a month rather than just 230,000 jobs. In fact, my colleague Dick Stevenson went through those calculations in a follow-up story the next day. I defend my article in a literal sense. As the story noted, the administration was forecasting an increase of 2.6 million jobs this year. At the time I was writing, I could not understand how an increaseof 2.6 million jobs could lead to such large monthly numbers and I was uncomfortable going with those numbers. So instead, I wrote that IF the nation were to add 2.6 million jobs by the end of the year, the economy would need to add about 230,000 jobs a month. That is actually true, but you...

Posted by DeLong at 10:54 AM

The Republican Slime Machine Takes Wing

Bob Somerby watches the Republican slime machine take wing, ably assisted by the New York Times's Jim Rutenberg: How easily are New York Times writers spun? Here is Jim Rutenberg, hopelessly bull-roared in a Sunday “Week in Review” report: RUTENBERG: It was a sharp video attack, jarring in a political season that has been unusually short on negative advertising. A woman, sitting at a keyboard, seeks information about Senator John Kerry on the Internet. She unearths all sorts of scandalizing tidbits. “More special interest money than any other senator. How much?” she says. The answer flashes on the screen: $640,000. “Ooh, for what?” she says, typing out “Paybacks?” and then reading aloud from the screen, she says, “Millions from executives at HMO’s, telecoms, drug companies.” She add, “Ka-Ching!” She can only come to one damning conclusion: Mr. Kerry, she says, is “Unprincipled.” The one-minute spot, introduced a week ago, did not appear on television, but on President Bush's campaign Web site. And so a new bare-knuckled political use of the World Wide Web showed its head: the Internet attack ad. Rutenberg repeats the content of this ad, and brightly notes that it’s an “attack.” But he is too inept to...

Posted by DeLong at 10:49 AM

February 22, 2004
Department of "Huh?"

In this morning's New York Times, I read the headline "A Prettier Jobs Picture?" The headline writers are making a pun. Virginia Postrel is writing about undercounting the number of people who are at work making things (and people) prettier. The headline writers are referring to that and are also saying that this undercount means that the overall jobs picture is "prettier" than standard statistics suggest. The headline writers are wrong. This is yet another example of something every single reporter swears: that American journalism would be much, much improved if editors would let reporters write their own headlines. Virginia Postrel writes: "It is tempting, of course, to treat these undercounts as trivial. After all, what do 200,000 massage therapists or 300,000 manicurists matter in a country of 290 million people? But this list of occupations is hardly comprehensive. In every booming job category I looked at, official surveys were missing thousands of jobs. As the economy evolves, however, this bias against small enterprises and self-employment becomes more and more significant...." Virginia Postrel means that the detailed occupational estimates are undercounting growth of employment in aesthetic occupations. But the headline writers think she means more. Let's go over the three...

Posted by DeLong at 09:46 AM

February 19, 2004
The Clown Show Continues

Joshua Micah Marshall is bemused by the clown show that is Bush administration discourse on employment: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: February 15, 2004 - February 21, 2004 Archives: Math is not my strong suit. So maybe someone can help me with this. A new line item in the White House talking points is to say that the economy is on the right track because it has produced some 366,000 jobs in the last five months. In his noon  press briefing yesterday, Scott McClellan listed as one of the signs the economy was on the right track the fact that "there have been more than 366,000 new jobs created in the last five months." And just an hour earlier, in a brief chat with reporters before meeting with the President of Tunisia, the president said: "I'm pleased by the fact that since August there's been 366,000 new jobs, in one survey." Now, the problem here is that everyone at the White House from the president on down is trumpeting this number like it's a good thing, when in fact, it's not. If I'm not mistaken there's a general consensus among economists that in our current economic circumstances we...

Posted by DeLong at 08:39 PM

February 10, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Special Jonathan Weisman Edition)

Here I am, depressed once again at reading Jonathan Weisman. He tells his readers that the administration's "projections" for job growth in 2004 are serious (if likely to be overoptimistic) estimates rather than another act in the clown show that is administration economic policymaking. And he gets what the "projections" of job growth are wrong. Bush Report Offers Positive Outlook on Jobs (washingtonpost.com): ...Mankiw released the White House's annual Economic Report of the President yesterday, predicting 2.6 million new payroll jobs by the end of the year. To his credit, Jonathan Weisman is suspicious of the administration's--I can't call them forecasts or estimates--let's call them "projections," and signals his suspicions immediately afterward: But such projections have proved problematic. Last year's report projected 1.7 million new jobs would be added in 2003. The 2002 report was even more optimistic, predicting 3 million new jobs in 2003. Instead, the nation lost 53,000 payroll jobs last year, the Labor Department says. "I know there will be jobs in the future," Mankiw told reporters at a news conference, "because I know this is a vibrant economy, a dynamic economy." But Weisman doesn't seem to know the strongest reasons to reject the employment "projections" as...

Posted by DeLong at 10:46 AM

February 09, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special Wall Street Journal News Pages Edition)

As you will recall, I speculated that the reason that Table C-1, p. 98 of the 2004 Economic Report of the President forecasts an average of 132.7 million payroll jobs in 2004 is that that is more than the 132.5 million payroll jobs at the start of Bush's term. The fact that this forecast is simply silly is neither here nor there. Under the assumption of steady growth throughout the year, it implies an end of 2004 payroll employment number of 134.5 million--way higher than our current 130.1 million or so. It also implies that productivity growth this year is going to come to a screeching halt, an odd thing to forecast after eight years during which productivity growth has averaged 3.2% per year. The key is not to make a credible forecast but to avoid an embarrassing headline: "Bush Administration Forecast Says Fewer Jobs This Year than at Start of Administration." And it has worked. Here is the very sharp Greg Ip caught in the trap: WSJ.com - White House Sees 2.6 Million Jobs Created This Year: In an optimistic forecast, the White House expects the U.S. economy to create 2.6 million jobs this year. That would erase the...

Posted by DeLong at 08:46 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Tim Russert Edition II)

I don't link to Bob Somerby enough. He's smart, and he's a good observer: Bulldog Tim rolled over and died. Can we stop calling Russert a bulldog?: Can you find any hint of an answer to Russert’s question? Bush was asked why he dragged his feet on setting up a probe. His answer? Terrorists are people who hide in caves. Bush’s languorous “answer,” by the way, lasted a minute and 32 seconds. That was 92 seconds the slow-talking guest had managed to take off the clock. But readers, you know that ol’ bulldog, Tim Russert! Surely he got in Bush’s face with a tough-talking follow-up question, a question designed to force his guest to get himself back on the mark! After all, Russert is the toughest pundit in all punditdom, pundits say. He’s just “like a prosecutor,” they like to say. You can run—but you can’t hide from Russert. But no, Russert didn’t follow up when Bush gave a speech to avoid his first question. As he did throughout the hour, he simply moved on to Question 2 when Bush failed to answer Question 1. What happened to that frightening bulldog—the one the press has talked up for years?...

Posted by DeLong at 07:52 AM

February 08, 2004
Andrew Sullivan Has His Claude Rains Moment

"I'm shocked! Shocked to discover that gambling is going on in here!" "Your winnings, sir." That's Claude Rains in Casablanca. Lo and behold, Andrew Sullivan has his own Claude Rains moment this morning as he discovers that George W. Bush is either a bald-faced liar or "out of it... frighteningly unaware" of the most basic facts about his administration's policies: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish:BUSH IS OUT OF IT: On the budget, this president is frighteningly unaware of the reality of his own legacy and policies. That's the only conclusion you can draw from his answers on Tim Russert. Either that, or he really is lying. The most interesting thing, of course, is that Paul Krugman--Sullivan's bete noire--has been telling him for 3 1/2 years now that there is "gambling going on in here"--that George W. Bush is either a bald-faced liar or frighteningly unaware of the most basic of facts about what the government is doing. Isn't it time for Andrew Sullivan to write Paul Krugman a formal apology? It is the mannerly thing to do if you suddenly realize that you have been wrong and they have been right all along. UPDATE: And it's not just economic policy: BUSH'S...

Posted by DeLong at 03:07 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Special Tim Russert Version)

Kash at Angry Bear asks a rhetorical question: Kash at Angry Bear: Lies, Direct from the President's MouthFrom Bush’s MTP appearance this morning:RUSSERT: But your base conservatives, and listen to Rush Limbaugh, the Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, they're all saying you are the biggest spender in American history. BUSH: Well, they're wrong. If you look at the appropriations bills that were passed under my watch, in the last year of President Clinton, discretionary spending was up 15 percent, and ours have steadily declined.Hmm. Seems easy enough to verify. Here is the level of discretionary spending over the past 5 years, from the CBO:1999: $572 bn2000: $615 bn, +7.5% change2001: $649 bn, +5.5% change2002: $734 bn, +13.0% change2003: $826 bn, +12.5% changeOops. Unless "the last year of President Clinton" was 2002, I think Bush is quite incorrect. The real question is how he can get away with lying about things that are so obviously and verifiably untrue. Kash With our current press corps, would you doubt that you could get away with lying about things that are so obviously and verifiably untrue? Of course not....

Posted by DeLong at 02:39 PM

Leaving the Sinking Ship IV

The Suburban Guerilla observes the sad and sorry figure of George F. Will, well, not leaving the sinking ship, quite, but putting his two forepaws on the rope leading down to the dock: Suburban Guerrilla: Shorter George Will: This budget is unthinkable and the president should be ashamed of himself. But at least he's not a Democrat....

Posted by DeLong at 08:39 AM

Buyer's Remorse

The Washington Post's editorial board has been one of George W. Bush's big boosters--in an eyes-closed-to-reality beyond-reason fashion--for most of the past three years, giving him the benefit of the doubt for reasons that have seemed incomprehensible to me. Now there are finally signs of buyer's remorse: washingtonpost.com: Skewed Priorities: IF THE FEDERAL budget is a mirror of national priorities, consider this skewed choice in President Bush's spending plan: By 2009, child care assistance would be cut for at least 200,000 children in low- and moderate-income families -- and that's by the administration's own estimates. The real number of children affected could be as high as 365,000. That same year, those with annual incomes of $1 million or more would be paying an average of $155,000 less in income taxes as a result of Mr. Bush's tax cuts. This is no isolated example. The administration proposes almost nothing to tackle the mandatory spending programs that now eat up nearly two-thirds of the $2.4 trillion budget. It insists that Mr. Bush's tax cuts be made permanent, at a cost of nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. That means programs for the poorest and most vulnerable would be cut -- not...

Posted by DeLong at 08:36 AM

Tim Russert's Interview of George W. Bush

Tim Russert didn't seem to me to do a very good job. He didn't ask what seemed to me the natural follow-up questions in his Meet the Press interview with George W. Bush. Here are three examples from the Transcript for Feb. 8th: Russert: Why do you think you are perceived as such a divider? President Bush: Gosh, I don't know, because I'm working hard to unite the country.  As a matter of fact, it's the hardest part of being the president.  I was successful as the Governor of Texas for bringing people together for the common good, and I must tell you it's tough here in Washington, and frankly it's the biggest disappointment that I've had so far of coming to Washington. I'm not blaming anybody.  It's just the environment here is such that it is difficult to find common ground.  I‘ll give you a classic case:  the Medicare bill.  The Medicare bill was a tough vote, but the Medicare bill is a bill that a lot of people could have signed on to and had it not been for kind of the sense of, well, ‘Bush might win, we might lose,’ you know, or ‘Bush might lose, we...

Posted by DeLong at 08:31 AM

February 07, 2004
I'll Stop Calling This Administration "Orwellian" When They Stop Using 1984 as an Operations Manual

Yet another reason why we all need to read Paul Krugman at least twice a week: Op-Ed Columnist: Get Me Rewrite!: February 6, 2004 OP-ED COLUMNIST Get Me Rewrite! By PAUL KRUGMAN R>ight now America is going through an Orwellian moment. On both the foreign policy and the fiscal fronts, the Bush administration is trying to rewrite history, to explain away its current embarrassments. Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade. A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz...

Posted by DeLong at 05:15 PM

Michael Lind on a Roll II: General Franco Is Still Dead

General Franco is still dead. But criticizing him and his particular variant of Fascism is not a good idea if you want the regard of William F. Buckley, Jr. A Tragedy of Errors: The warping of an ideological movement by the ethnic, religious or regional biases of its leaders is not uncommon. For example, there was nothing innately Catholic or even Christian about William F. Buckley Jr.'s "movement conservatism," which attracted many Protestants, Jews and secularists. Nevertheless, the Buckley circle was heavily Catholic and included his brother-in-law Brent Bozell, an American follower of Spanish Carlism (the Carlists were the Catholic answer to the American Likudniks). In the same way that criticizing the Likud Party is a bad career move if you are a contemporary Jewish or non-Jewish neoconservative who doesn't see why Israel shouldn't be a "state of all its citizens" like the United States, so it was not a good idea in the 1950s and '60s to criticize General Franco's Spain if you were a National Review conservative....

Posted by DeLong at 04:57 PM

Staffing Tim Russert II

It has been pointed out that while long, thorough questions make the questioner look smart, they are easy to evade. So here's another take on what Tim Russert should ask, presented as question series: The Washington Post has called your budget a "bogus budget," and the New York Times has called your budget a "Pinocchio budget," isn't that right. The Post editorial page has been a big supporter--why did they say that? [Follow up] They say that your budget omits $150 billion of costs in 2009 associated with policies you advocate--and that the real 2009 deficit number is $400 billion. Isn't that true? [Follow up] But the budget you submitted has no money in 2009 to fight the War on Terrorism, no proposals to keep the Alternative Minimum Tax from undoing the tax cuts you are so proud of, and contains $60 billion of promises that sometime in the future you will submit more spending cuts. Doesn't that add up to about $150 billion? [Follow up] Shouldn't you withdraw the budget document, and issue a new one that presents a more honest picture of your policies and their likely costs? Mr. President, your first Treasury Secretary--Paul O'Neill--warned about the dangers...

Posted by DeLong at 04:23 PM

February 05, 2004
Deficit Coverage: What's Missing?

My piece for Eric Alterman at the Center for American Progress, "Deficit Coverage: What's Missing?", is up....

Posted by DeLong at 10:35 AM

Jonathan Weisman's Defenders Write in

I have received a number of emails from various journalism insiders defending or excusing Jonathan Weisman, which make some interesting points that I would like to share: As you will recall from our last episode, Jonathan Weisman responded to my critique that one of his news articles from the Washington Post read like a rewritten White House press release by writing: F*** Brad DeLong. The first piece put on the web is slapped together as quickly as possible, and the guy for some reason doesn't like me. Here's my analysis: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6881-2004Feb2.html Jonathan Weisman Washington Post economics writer I understand this to mean: Yes, it was a rewritten press release. There's nothing wrong with rewriting press releases, even if doing so conveys a fundamentally misleading story. The important thing was to get some column inches written quickly, not to inform readers about the budget. If you want to learn about the budget, go to my article here instead.* This indicated to me that the Washington Post's news editors have some very serious quality control problems here. But, as I said above, Jonathan Weisman's supporters have been writing in via email. Here are the points they make: He has a potty mouth,...

Posted by DeLong at 07:54 AM

February 04, 2004
The Ten Year Old Questions the San Francisco Chronicle's News Judgment

The Ten Year Old questions the San Francisco Chronicle's news judgment. She wonders why stories about Colin Powell's reversal and rereversal on whether he would have supported the invasion of Iraq had intelligence been accurate is placed on page A-15, while page A-1 carries stories like "The Fish You Buy This Fall Will Carry a Label" and carries teasers to "Cooking with Grandma's Iron Skillet" I'm not going to send her to read Managing Consent. What should I send her to read instead?...

Posted by DeLong at 01:53 PM

Mirror of Wildernesses: Special Bush AWOL Edition

Excessive reading of his brother's weblog has caused Michael Froomkin to (like me) start obsessing about the "torn document" (what I call the W document because the only part of George Bush's name purportedly visible is the middle initial W). He directs us to the Daily Howler: Discourse.net: Must-Read Daily Howler Today on the "Torn Document": ...The more interesting item—how hard it is to get facts about the GW Bush military record—actually comes first. There are two related issues. First, how and why the major papers in this country are badly bungling the task of informing us as to what the facts are, and when there are areas of uncertainty what the cause of that uncertainty might be. The Howler’s compares the accounts in major newspapers and notes that they don’t coincide at all. So not only are there divergences with what appears to be the record, but the reporters themselves appear to have very different views as to what the basic facts are. Which leads to the even more interesting question of why that might be. The Howler suggests that the key question is the extent to which a particular torn document proffered by the Bush people can be...

Posted by DeLong at 12:16 PM

More on Hastily Rewriting White House Press Releases

From the top of the tall steel, chrome, and glass tower perched at the summit of Mount Olympus that is Gawker Media World Headquarters, eagle-eyed and muu-muu-clad Wonkette notices the ripples in cyberspace left by yours truly, and comments. She also prints letters! (If you are funny, that is.) This is the edited, G-rated version: Washington Post's Advice to Blogger: Matt Stoller over at The Blogging of the President tries to make sense of why Washington Post reporter Jon Weisman told Brad DeLong to go f*** himself: To: Michael Ham Cc: delong@econ.Berkeley.EDU From: Jonathan Weisman Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 09:57:46 -0500 Status: F*** Brad DeLong. Jonathan Weisman Washington Post economics writer weismanj@washpost.com (202)334-7745 We've deleted the substance of the email, which was boring. (Some crap about about the Bush budget and DeLong's blog post about Weisman's superficial treatment of its significant flaws, as well as Weisman's admission that his piece was, indeed, "slapped together.") Stoller goes into some detail about DeLong's credentials (presidential economic adviser, professor. . . ) and how Weisman should have treated DeLong's criticisms as constructive advice ("Bush's budget numbers have a pattern of not adding up; this is relevant, necessary, and obvious context . ....

Posted by DeLong at 11:24 AM

February 03, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Agreement From an Unexpected Quarter

From an unexpected quarter comes agreement that we need a better press corps. In my inbox this morning is an email from Jonathan Weisman about his Washington Post story yesterday--the one that covered the Bush budget as the story of a brave president and administration making tough choices to bring the deficit under control, the one that read as though 90% of it came from a rewritten White House press release as it was hastily slapped together.Weisman writes*: ...The first piece put on the web is slapped together as quickly as possible...I.e., it reads like 90% of it is a rewritten White House press release because 90% of it is a rewritten White House press release. ...Here's my analysis: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6881-2004Feb2.html...I.e., don't read that hastily slapped-together story. Read this instead. Unfortunately, I don't think this is fully satisfactory. IIRC, for most of yesterday Weisman's rewritten White House press release was the lead story, the first story in the news column on the Post's website. For all the people out in Internetland who get their Post via electrons rather than dead trees--and that's a very large chunk of the media/journalist/analyst/politician community--it is the piece that was hastily slapped together tjhat gives them...

Posted by DeLong at 11:16 AM

Eric Umansky Says That the Wall Street Journal Is Our Better Press Corps

Writing in Slate, Eric Umansky writes that the news pages* of the Wall Street Journal are our better press corps--the only ones with the wit and the cojones to say "straight out and right up high" that the Bush administration's budget is a clown show, an exercise in fiscal fantasy. He's right. All in all, the Journal does a very good job. The other papers? On the budget story, they seem to pump out Bush administration propaganda on page 1 and, in Umansky's words, largely reserve their "fact-checking... for the retired, the underemployed, and anyone who reads inside the A-sections." Fudge-It Budget By Eric Umansky: The papers note that most analysts—independent, Democratic, and Republican—view the proposed budget as a significant undercount of what the government will actually spend. But only the Journal says that straight out and right up high: "Among the gimmicks: failing to provide for the future cost of occupying Iraq, which Mr. Bush's budget director suggests could cost as much as $50 billion in 2005; pledging steep cuts in some popular programs that Congress will probably reject; and anticipating large savings by making the federal government operate more efficiently, a timeworn budget pledge that rarely pays off...

Posted by DeLong at 09:41 AM

February 02, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part DLX

Washington Post reporters Jonathan Weisman, Mike Allen, and Fred Barbash take a dive. The first one two three four five six seven eight nine ten paragraphs of their article on the Bush budget are exactly as White House Media Affairs wanted them to be. Only in paragraph 11 is there any mention of something the Bush administration does not want stressed. And the first important substantive criticism of Bush policies and how they are presented comes only in paragraph 26. Isn't it worth stating--somewhere in the first ten paragraphs--that the Bush budget number for 2009 omits about $160 billion in costs that the administration is on record as favoring? Isn't the fact that the Bush budget limits itself to five years--to 2009--rather than the ten years of Clinton budgets, and limits itself to five years for a reason, worth a mention somewhere in the first ten paragraphs? Isn't the fact that extending the Bush tax cuts would blow an annual $250 billion hole in the budget in the 2009-2012 presidential term worth mentioning in the first ten paragraphs--not in paragraph 26? Shouldn't the article say somewhere in its first ten paragraphs that $400 billion in 2009 and $700 billion by...

Posted by DeLong at 06:39 PM

February 01, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part DLI

Reuters cannot do its own math. Under the headline "Self-Employment May Mask U.S. Job Growth," Reuters reports that self-employed workers have grown by 4%--i.e., 600,000. But Reuters does not give its readers the 600,000 number and compare it to the 3,000,000 discrepancy between the household survey and the payroll survey. Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? Self - Employment May Mask U.S. Job Growth: Because she is one of more than 15 million self-employed workers in the United States, Temescu is on nobody's payroll -- and thus does not show up on the Labor Department's employer survey used each month to assess the strength of the job market. The failure of the survey to count independent contractors has come under fire by President Bush's economic team and some analysts, who argue it underestimates job growth by ignoring one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy. "There is a big error factor in those numbers,'' Treasury Secretary John Snow said after Labor reported a scant 1,000 rise in December payrolls. "I think they may well have understated (job growth), and we will see a restatement in the future.'' A rise in self-employed and other nonpayroll workers would...

Posted by DeLong at 08:53 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXL

Joshua Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall as he contemplates Washington Post reporter James Hoagland's eagerness to be of assistance to the crew running the White House--whatever the party line of the day is. Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: February 01, 2004 - February 07, 2004 Archives: This morning Post columnist James Hoagland endorses the 'CIA sold the president a bill of goods' defense. Hoagland is willing Advertisment  to concede that the president may have "inflated" the "flawed intelligence that [his] spy bosses and senior aides provided." But still, he writes, "[c]redulity, not chicanery, would be the plea, your honor." As I said, or rather as Hoagland says, the Agency sold the president a bill of goods. Now, here I am at my favorite cafe, laptop on my knees, latte at the ready, trying to make sense of the world. And this all throws me, because Hoagland spent the last two years telling me that the president and his top aides had to bully the Agency and the rest of the career types in the Intelligence Community and the national security establishment into getting religion on the Iraq threat. And now I hear it's just the opposite?...

Posted by DeLong at 01:11 PM

January 31, 2004
The Chocolate Ration is Up Again!

The chocolate ration is up again! The wit and wisdom of Timothy Kane, Ph.D. Research Fellow in Macroeconomics in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation. He tells us that the U.S. economy is now at its "natural, full-employment" unemployment rate, and that declines in labor force participation rates and employment-to-population ratios are positive signs: The American Workforce: Strong Facts Trump Weak Myths: The unemployment rate is coming back to its natural, full-employment rate of 5.7 percent. Many skeptics attribute lower unemployment to growing ranks of Americans so discouraged by weak labor markets that they have stopped looking for jobs, and therefore no longer count as unemployed, but that scenario doesn’t fit the data. Consider the facts: 4th quarter data are overwhelmingly positive. Part-time workers are predominantly voluntary. Teens are driving the lower participation rates. Let's just pick on the third. Time is limited, after all. Kane writes: Timothy Kane: Among [American] teens, the [labor force] participation rate peaked at 59 percent in 1978 and has trended down by 3 percent per decade. The [labor force participation] rate dropped dramatically by 10 percent over the last three years. Currently, only 43.2 percent of teenagers participate in the labor...

Posted by DeLong at 07:33 PM

Eugene Volokh's Jaw Drops

UPDATE: Paul "Slaves Were Happy! And Well Cared-For! Really Happy! Much Happier Than People Like Me, Who Have to Fill Out Schedule C!" Craig Roberts finds somebody who agrees with him: Donald Luskin.* Why am I not surprised? Eugene Volokh's jaw drops as he contemplates the views of Paul Craig Roberts: The Volokh Conspiracy: Columnists Paul Craig Roberts begins a recent column with a criticism of the income tax -- something that certainly could be criticized -- but then says (emphasis added):Compare an American taxpayer's situation today with that of a 19th century American slave. Not all slaves worked on cotton plantations. Some with marketable skills were leased to businesses or released to labor markets, where they worked for money wages. Just like the wages of today's taxpayer, a portion of the slave's money wages was withheld. In those days the private owner, not the government, received the withheld portion of the slave's wages. Slaves in that situation were as free as today's American taxpayer to choose their housing from the available stock, purchase their food and clothing, and entertain themselves. In fact, they were freer than today's American taxpayer. By hard work and thrift, they could save enough to...

Posted by DeLong at 08:56 AM

The New York Times Is Confused

"Economic Growth Remained Strong in the Fourth Quarter," is the headline over the New York Times story. A rather strange headline for a quarter during which output grew at a slower pace than expected and employment did not grow fast enough to soak up expected growth in the labor force. "Though government data on payrolls showed almost no job growth in December, government surveys of households have suggested that hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created," reads a passage near the story's end. While the payroll survey did show employment growth of only 1,000 the household survey did not show "hundreds of thousands" of jobs created during December--it showed that 50,000 were lost. Over longer time periods the household survey does indeed paint a much brighter picture than the payroll survey--but not during December. "The contradictory evidence remains a puzzle, but one theory is that many people who no longer work at companies are now self-employed as consultants and service providers who work out of their own homes," reads the sentence immediately following. But the divergence since January 2001 between the household survey and the payroll survey has been 2.6 million, and the household survey itself reports that self-employment...

Posted by DeLong at 01:46 AM

January 30, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part DXXXX

The Daily Howler says that Slate's Jacob Weisberg has a serious quality control problem with Brendan Koerner: At 'Slate,' a scribe knew what to do. He disappeared George Bush's problem: Last Tuesday, Slate... invited Brendan Koerner to review Bush’s record. Incredibly, Koerner typed this: KOERNER: ... [in] May of 1972... [Bush] left Houston, where he was stationed, for Alabama, to work on a Republican senatorial campaign. The sticking point is whether Bush ever reported for duty with the 187th Tactical Recon Group, based in Montgomery, Ala., as he was supposed to. Bush claims that he did indeed show up for duty, though he did not fly. (A Boston Globe investigation from 2000 quotes a campaign spokesman who said Bush performed odds and ends in Montgomery.) Though Bush admits to missing a few required weekends while in Alabama, he says he made up that time when he returned to Texas the following year. He received his honorable discharge in October of 1973, eight months before his scheduled discharge, so he could attend Harvard Business School. There are conflicting accounts as to whether Bush ever really served in Alabama. The commander of the 187th Tactical Recon Group told the Globe that he...

Posted by DeLong at 03:32 PM

The "Besides That" Game!

From Sadly, No! A fun party game for all ages. Sadly, No!: The Besides That Game Returns!: GOP Wake-Up Call Besides the fact that Republican presidents accumulate record-setting deficits every time they are in office, the GOP truly is the party of fiscal discipline. Rules of the game can be found here....

Posted by DeLong at 02:34 PM

The Decembrist Does Mickey Kaus's Homework

Mark Schmitt further diminishes my willingness to take Mickey Kaus's word for things: The Decembrist: Kaus, Kerry and Welfare Reform: If Kaus thinks that aligning himself with Senator Breaux on an amendment that passed in a Republican-controlled Senate makes Kerry a liberal, he's welcome to that delusion. Kaus says he followed the issue very closely at the time, and promises more research to find out whether these amendments would have "gutted" welfare reform. I'll do his work for him -- I spent most of this time perched quietly on the staff bench at the edge of the Senate floor, so I know exactly how this went down. Kerry was not one of the Democrats who wanted to defeat or gut the bill. (My boss, Senator Bradley, was.) Kaus is certainly correct that Kerry was not an active leader on welfare reform.... Kerry did offer an amendment on the floor, which passed, requiring states that showed an increase in child poverty to develop a plan for corrective action. That was a good idea, one of a number of Democratic efforts to put the goal of reducing child poverty, not just welfare caseloads, into the bill. On the amendments Kaus cites: The...

Posted by DeLong at 02:32 PM

January 29, 2004
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? Part CCCIX

Via Atrios. And this is a very, very bipartisan complaint. 86 senators who voted for this idiocy. And we need a better press corps as well. The lead should be, "The Senate, acting with rare election-year concord, voted to reduce by $96 billion the payments companies will make into their pension plans this year and next. This will boost the companies' stock prices, increase the gap between the pension promises the companies have made and the resources committed to funding pensions, and increase the chances that workers will find at retirement that the pensions they were counting on just aren't there": Yahoo! News - Senate Passes Pension Relief Bill: The Senate, acting with rare election-year concord, passed a bill Wednesday to reduce by $96 billion the payments companies will have to make into their pension plans this year and next. Sponsors said the measure, passed 86-9, will help preserve pension benefits for millions of workers by discouraging financially strapped companies from terminating plans as no longer affordable. "Our pension plans are being battered by a perfect storm of declining interest rates, stock market declines and a weak economy," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. The bill, he said, "will help the...

Posted by DeLong at 07:38 PM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXXX

The MinuteMan notes the phoniness of the "Dean Scream" story that got the press so excited after the Iowa primary. He says it "may contribute to a sense of victimhood and oppression amongst the Deaniacs." May? JustOneMinute: Dean Was Robbed!: ABC News had a jaw-dropping story which I saw, as did a BuzzFlash contributor. The gist - in his famous "I Hva A Scream" speech after the Iowa upset, Howard Dean was using a wireless microphone designed to filter out background crowd noises. The televised effect was the very un-Presidential image of a man screaming in an empty room. However, ABC dug up tapes from amateurs on the scene. In this context, Howard Dean is virtually inaudible, and the scream sounds like someone yelling in Yankee Stadium after a Derek Jeter home run against the Red Sox. Sorry, for non-sports fans, it sounds like a man yelling on a runway while a jetliner takes off behind him - the whole audience was rocking (we saw that in New Hampshire, too) and Dr. Dean is inaudible. Does it matter? His campaign seems to have collapsed. However, the ABC story may contribute to a sense of victimhood and oppression amongst the Deaniacs,...

Posted by DeLong at 10:18 AM

January 26, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXVI

The Washington Post's Amy Goldstein and Jonathan Weisman write about the State of the Union Address, and the "heavy emphasis on health care and jobs" in George W. Bush's agenda. Here's the opening of their article: Amy Goldstein and Jonathan Weisman: Constrained by record budget deficits and election-year realities, President Bush offered a short list of relatively inexpensive domestic proposals last night, including job training, an altered immigration policy, expanded efforts to promote sexual abstinence, and plans to prevent gay marriages and the use of illegal drugs. For the most part, the agenda Bush laid out, with its heavy emphasis on health care and jobs, largely repackages earlier proposals.... Bush called on Congress to act quickly to make health insurance more affordable... tax credits to help uninsured people buy private coverage, new limits on medical liability lawsuits, and a plan that would allow small companies to band together to offer health coverage that bypasses existing insurance regulations.... Bush proposed several ways to prepare Americans for work. He called for a modest growth in job training, seeking $250 million to expand a program that links community colleges with employers... coaching for middle school students who lag in reading and math, more...

Posted by DeLong at 07:58 PM

Don't Read Irving Stelzer

Oh no! Not again! The Weekly Standard needs to replace Irving Stelzer with a different--and competent--economics writer, and the sooner the better: The Book of Jobs: In the past year, employers reported a net loss of over 70,000 jobs, while households reported a net gain of over two million. Believe the second figure... Stelzer has not done his own homework, and his simply cribbed his numbers straight out of a recent (and blatantly incorrect) Robert Barro Business Week column. So let me just repeat myself: Bad Barro! Bad Barro! No bone for you!: In his most recent Business Week column, Robert Barro says a number of things that... well, to put it politely, are not as true as he appears to think they are. But the most untrue of all are his claims that: ...over the past year... household [employment] grew by two million.... Let's look at the numbers, most easily found in the CEA-JEC's monthly publication Economic Indicators: Status of the Labor Force (Household Survey) Date Adult Non-Institutional Population Civilian Labor Force Civilian Employment 2002:Dec 218.74 145.15 136.44 2003:Jan3 219.90 145.84 137.54 2003:Feb3 220.11 145.86 137.41 2003:Mar 220.32 145.79 137.35 2003:Apr 220.54 146.47 137.69 2003:May 220.77 146.48 137.49 2003:Jun...

Posted by DeLong at 02:37 PM

Almost Feeling Sorry. Almost

South Knox Bubba writes that he almost feels sorry for those who believed the Bush administration's claims about Saddam Hussein's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons program, and who expected David Kay to vindicate them. Almost: South Knox Bubba: I almost feel sorry for them... ...sort of like rubes at a sideshow who get conned into paying fifty cents to see the "Amazing Two-Headed Beast" only to find a deformed pig fetus in a thirty-year-old jar of formaldehyde once they're inside:Pejman Yousefzadeh: I think that Kay is going to prove invaluable in resolving the question about WMD's. JunkYardBlog: The Kay report contains a reference to botulinum toxin, and the fact that investigators found a live vial of it in the home of an Iraqi scientist. Botulinum is in fact a weapon of mass destruction--it's the most poisonous known substance. [...] So we have found a WMD in Iraq. We will probably find more. It remains for the world to realize what this means.InstaPundit: DAVID KAY ON MEDIA COVERAGE: ...David Kay also said, "We're going to find remarkable things" about Iraq's weapons program. Funny that this gets so little attention.Bill Hobbs: WMD: The Hunt for the Truth: South Knox Bubba says I'm...

Posted by DeLong at 01:01 PM

January 24, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part DXVI

This little note below about the mood at the World Economic Forum confirms what I've been hearing through a bunch of other channels as well. Alan Cowell of the New York Times is not telling it straight. Anti-Bushism is significantly stronger than it was last year, when there were a number of people outside the United States willing to entertain the possibility that the U.S. had accurate intelligence of close links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and of Saddam's possession of large amounts of terror weapons and of various delivery capabilities. Now nobody takes anything the Bush administration says about anything at all as anything other than a probable manipulative lie. Whiskey Bar: I wanted to see whether this New York Times story was as out of touch with reality as I thought it was when I read it: "Anti-Americanism May Be Fading, but [World Economic] Forum Is No Love Fest: Compared with one year ago, when the forum became a bitter joust between America and opponents of war in Iraq, some ... skeptics and foes have begun to acquiesce in Washington's exercise of power, or at least to acknowledge that this new world order would not simply be...

Posted by DeLong at 03:27 PM

Looking Back at the NAFTA Ratification Debate

Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute asks some questions about the Clinton administration's understanding of what the effects of NAFTA would be: Jeff: Clinton's mantra [on NAFTA] was "jobs-jobs-jobs." But I have always doubted that the... [administration] economists... believed that NAFTA was going to be an important job stimulus to the US economy. Me: I think we in the Clinton administration did produce a small "200,000 net jobs" number--or I have the memory that Sherman Robinson and I did, although I forget whether it ever got approved at higher levels. The argument was that NAFTA would lead to a somewhat stronger peso as foreign capital became more willing to invest in Mexico in response, and that as a result the with-NAFTA scenario had more U.S. net exports and a short-run Keynesian boost to employment of 200,000 or so relative to the no-NAFTA scenario. The argument was then hedged with the qualifiers that (a) NAFTA had to actually work as a device generating an inflow of capital to Mexico, and (b) that this was a short-run immediate post-recession gain only: that in the long run the level of employment is set by the Federal Reserve in the Eccles Building, and...

Posted by DeLong at 11:09 AM

January 23, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXV

Matthew Yglesias writes: TAPPED: January 2004 Archives: DROPPING THE BALL. The New York Times manages to totally botch the story of Republicans stealing memos from Democratic Senators: The Senate's sergeant-at-arms said on Thursday that he was nearing an end to an investigation into how several confidential memorandums written by Democratic staff aides about dealing with judicial nominations ended up in the hands of Republican staff members. . . . He said through a spokeswoman on Thursday that he expected to issue a report soon to the Judiciary Committee. The progress of Mr. Pickle's investigation was reported most recently by The Boston Globe on Thursday. That's a hell of a way to bury the Globe's big scoop -- [the New York Times] manage[s] to never tell us what the content of the report was -- which, as you may recall, was this: Republican staff members of the US Senate Judiciary Commitee infiltrated opposition computer files for a year, monitoring secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, Senate officials told The Globe. From the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted...

Posted by DeLong at 08:46 AM

January 22, 2004
Bad Barro! Bad Barro! No Bone for You!

Oh God! Another piece of misinformation introduced into the stream of popular economic discourse! In his most recent Business Week column, Robert Barro says a number of things that... well, to put it politely, are not as true as he appears to think they are. But the most untrue of all are his claims that: ...over the past year... household [employment] grew by two million.... In the past year, the increase in the labor force by 1.7 million represented 1.2% growth--close to the annual growth rate of 1.4% seen since 1980. So there is no validity to the argument that the labor force behaved in an unusual way in 2003. Let's look at the numbers, most easily found in the CEA-JEC's monthly publication Economic Indicators: Status of the Labor Force (Household Survey) Date Adult Non-Institutional Population Civilian Labor Force Civilian Employment 2002:Dec 218.74 145.15 136.44 2003:Jan3 219.90 145.84 137.54 2003:Feb3 220.11 145.86 137.41 2003:Mar 220.32 145.79 137.35 2003:Apr 220.54 146.47 137.69 2003:May 220.77 146.48 137.49 2003:Jun 221.01 147.10 137.74 2003:Jul 221.25 146.54 137.48 2003:Aug 221.51 146.53 137.63 2003:Sep 221.78 146.54 137.57 2003:Oct 222.04 146.89 138.09 2003:Nov 222.28 147.19 138.53 2003:Dec 222.54 146.87 138.48 3Not strictly comparable with earlier data... an...

Posted by DeLong at 01:00 PM

January 21, 2004
Gollee Gee, We Have a Better Press Corps! Kudos to USA Today!

Kudos to USA Today, and to Richard Benedetto, Peronet Despeignes, John Diamond, Mimi Hall, Steve Komarow, Barbara Slavin and William M. Welch, for remembering what a press corps is supposed to be. Not a weasel word calculated to gain favor with White House insiders to be found. Very well done: A reality check on what Bush said on key issues:Weapons of mass destruction What Bush said: Search teams have "identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" in Iraq. "Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."Context: The Bush administration has struggled to explain why weapons hunters have found no chemical or biological weapons in Iraq in 10 months of searching. On the eve of the war, President Bush said there was "no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." He said terrorist groups could acquire weapons from Iraq and use them against the United States. A search effort led by CIA appointee David Kay has turned up no weapons and no evidence of any advanced weapons program, raising questions about the quality of U.S. intelligence and the Bush...

Posted by DeLong at 10:33 AM

January 20, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part DXIII

The Whiskey Bar writes about how the New York Times can't even report its own polls straight:

Posted by DeLong at 01:09 PM

January 19, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?: Part DXII

Lerxst at Economists for Dean trashes Matthew Yglesias's old family friend Danny Okrent for thinking that the purpose of an Ombudsman is to provide cover for reporters and editors rather than to make reporters' and editors' lives less comfortable when they make errors and let their biases show. I score it as Lerxst 10, Okrent 3:

Posted by DeLong at 09:13 AM

The Chocolate Ration Is Up Again!

The Washington Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler, writes a piece in which the last paragraph flatly contradicts the first three:

When News Decisions 'Look Bad' to Some (washingtonpost.com): "A reader e-mailed Washington Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham, and me, on Monday asking why the paper had no coverage of former Treasury secretary Paul H. O'Neill's "explosive charge [on CBS's "60 Minutes" Sunday night] that the administration was out to take over Iraq from the day it entered office. I, and a lot of other people, will conclude that your editorial policy is influencing your news coverage. Personally, I don't believe that to be true since I have read enough stuff in The Post's news section to persuade me otherwise. But it looks bad."... [T]here was heavy mail all last week from readers who questioned the paper's news judgment on several stories, including others who also wondered whether the paper's editorial page stance in support of the president's decision to invade Iraq had infected the news sections. Like the reader quoted above, I am confident that is not the case....

The O'Neill story attracted the most mail for what one reader assessed as "an apparent lack of interest in a story of major importance."... The first news about the pre-Sept. 11, 2001, Iraq decision-making was the easily missed account toward the bottom of Page A13 on Sunday. Furthermore, it contained a personal attack on O'Neill ("Nobody listened to him when he was in office. Why should anybody now?") from an anonymous senior administration official, which is a journalistic no-no. Readers asked why a Post reporter should allow himself to be used as a tool by the administration and why the senior official got a free pass to anonymously attack O'Neill.... [A]nother journalistic convention, putting the latest news first, gave the headline to the administration, as in, "White House Fires Back at O'Neill on Iraq."...

Editors should not edit because things may "look bad" to some readers. But there is a lot of smoke out there, and probably a fire.

I see only one way to read the last paragraph of this piece: Michael Getler believes that the Washington Post's right-wing editorial slant has infected and distorted the coverage found in its news pages. I see only one way to read the first three paragraphs: Michael Getler believes that if he says that in his judgment the Post's news coverage has been infected and distorted, that he will be fired.

Posted by DeLong at 09:03 AM

January 13, 2004
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCXXIX

In an un-bylined piece on January 13, the Wall Street Journal turns Paul O'Neill's criticisms of Larry Lindsey for not doing his job as chair of the National Economic Council--for being a one-sided ideological advocate rather than an honest broker building a consensus for good policy--into a "he said, he said" shouting match: Bush Aides Dispute O'Neill Book: Mr. O'Neill criticized Mr. Lindsey for not being "an honest broker" in internal deliberations. Mr. Lindsey said he had three tasks: to forge consensus where possible, to draft memos for the president detailing disagreements when consensus was elusive, and to give his own views. "I did all three." he said. "In that order." But if the reporter had given a little context, it would have been game and set to Paul O'Neill--because he is correct. Think of how differently that paragraph above would read if there were an extra sentence at its end, something like: "The Price of Loyalty reports, on page 67, that on the third day of the Bush administration Larry Lindsey was already telling Andrew Card and George W. Bush that the Treasury Department and its Office of Tax Analysis were dragging their feet and were not loyal to...

Posted by DeLong at 03:08 PM